In Ukraine, the war has not stopped the gig economy

In Ukraine, the war has not stopped the gig economy

In Ukraine

At the end of January Hanna Kompaniets received an email from Upwork, the site on which she has been interfacing with online clients for seven years to work as a virtual assistant. The email, sent to Ukrainian workers on the platform, said the company was following the escalation of tensions in Eastern Europe: "First of all, we hope you are safe," she read. The message went on to offer tips to Ukrainian freelancers to "help minimize any potential disruption to your freelance business or agency and customer relations". In short, keep customers updated on their safety to prevent them from getting nervous. "Make sure all your work is up to date"; back up computers and other devices. "Please stay safe, healthy, and connected," the email concluded.

Less than a month later, Russia invaded Ukraine, and Kompaniets says it hasn't since more directly heard Upwork: "It made me angry," he says. The e-mail was about "security and customer care, but not freelancers".

The gig economy in Ukraine WiredLeaks, how to send us an anonymous report Read the article Freelancers - or gig workers - who work on online platforms are a hidden engine of the Ukrainian economy and the world. They sign up for English-language sites like Upwork, Fiverr, and, Russian portals like, and Ukrainian services like and the country's most popular, They work as software engineers, project managers, IT technicians, graphic designers, editors and copywriters. And they work for everyone, with long-term contracts or occasional jobs: for startups in Germany, for a garage designer in Beaverton, Oregon, for a musician in Toronto, or for large companies like Airbnb, General Electric and Samsung.

A survey conducted in 2018 by the International Labor Organization (Oil), a United Nations agency, estimated that as many as 500,000 Ukrainians were registered on web platforms, three percent of the country's workforce . A University of Oxford report found the country to be the seventh largest provider of online workers in the world.

The Covid-19 pandemic may have pushed these figures further. For companies in the United States, Europe and elsewhere, Ukraine is an attractive source of workforce. The workers are well educated, tech savvy, often fluent in Russian and sometimes English. They tend to work for lower wages than their American or Western European counterparts, although they earn, according to the ILO survey, slightly more than the Ukrainian average wage.

Some companies have opened offices in Ukraine. Some of them - including Wix, Lyft and Uber - claim they are helping employees relocate and giving them extra vacation. Freelance platform Fiverr has a small global development team in Ukraine, most of whose members have left the country or moved to "safe places" within Ukraine, the company spokesperson reports. Siobhan Aalders.

The upheaval caused by the war The invasion of Russian forces has thrown Ukrainian freelancers into chaos and uncertainty. Vlad, a video editor living in southern Ukraine, says he got used to hearing the anti-aircraft sirens and hiding until the danger is over. At the moment there are battles going on about fifty kilometers from his house: "But as long as there is water, electricity and internet, I can work - he explains -. Because we all have to live off something, eat and pay the rent".

In the midst of the war, some freelancers are renegotiating deals with their clients, relying on their goodwill. Kompaniets agreed with two regular clients on Upwork to put projects on hold, but in two other cases he continued to work, sometimes from his winery in Zaporižžja in the south-east of the country. He says a customer sent her a bonus through the platform. A product designer, who asked to remain anonymous, says he has not been able to focus on work since his family fled Kiev to move to western Ukraine, adding that he appreciates the flexibility that this type of work provides.

The situation once again brings to the fore - in a sadly effective way - the precarious condition of gig workers on the web, explains Valerio De Stefano, a professor of labor law at the Osgoode Hall Law School of York University in Canada , which studies platform workers in Europe. "When there is a crisis like this, a war, the job market and workers always suffer - he says -. That said, freelancers, online and offline, depend heavily on their work for any kind of pay, and when not. they work and have no income ".

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Arrow The war also raises questions about what platforms owe to gig workers. When workers apply for projects requested by individuals or companies, platforms typically charge fees of up to twenty percent on payments. Now, however, some Ukrainian workers are calling for a suspension of commissions. Ivanna Demianiuk has been working on Upwork and Fiverr since 2015, where she has carved out a niche for herself as a contract project manager for US-based construction companies. Last autumn she moved from Ukraine to Germany, but still collaborates with people who have not been able to leave the country: "I asked if in this moment of crisis it was at least possible to stop charging us for commissions and support us," Demianiuk says. who adds that he only received an automated message from Fiverr and had no response from Upwork.

Demianiuk is also among the growing number of gig workers asking platforms to stop Russian customers from hiring workers and Russian freelancers to get new jobs on their sites. The Ukrainian website Freelancehunt agreed to do this. These workers are part of a movement that calls on platforms to take a political stand, explains Hatim Rahman, an assistant professor of management and organizations at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management who studies platform work. "There is a growing demand not only among workers and regulators, but also in society, for platforms to take a more active role when such conflicts arise," he says.

From Tiktok to Netflix, tech companies are blocking their services in Russia Activision Blizzard, Samsung and PayPal are just some of the multinationals that have suspended sales or activities in the country due to its aggression on Ukraine Read the article In the last week many large tech companies have relations with Russian institutions were interrupted. Google removed Russian state media from its News section and blocked some Russian financial institutions from Google Pay. Meta has banned Russian media from monetizing posts on Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp. Netflix said it will not comply with a Russian law requiring the service to broadcast Russian state-funded media. Apple has stopped all sales of its products and restricted the use of Apple Pay in the country.

In a statement, Upwork claims it is hard at work "to do everything in our power to ensure the safety and well-being of the many members of our team in Ukraine ". Fiverr did not answer questions about its position on Russia, but Aalders, the spokesperson, said the company has created a dedicated support team for war-affected buyers and sellers.

Kompaniets, meanwhile , says he is sending what he earns online to the Ukrainian army: "I am happy to be involved - he says -. Yes, it is dangerous. But it is important".

This article originally appeared on Us .

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