Is the 'Uber economy' bad for society? | The Tylt

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Is the 'Uber economy' bad for society?

The United States Department of Labor lists both the pros and cons of the gig economy, providing a rough outline of both challenges and opportunities for potential workers.


Gig workers say that they like being in control. They can choose projects they enjoy and schedule their work around their lives.

Flexibility. People who want to work without having set hours may look for gigs to fit their schedules. “I log on and work when I want,” says Ariana Baseman, a rideshare driver in Detroit, Michigan, who transports passengers in her spare time, in addition to working a traditional, full-time job. “It’s that flexible.”

Like other types of flexible employment arrangements, gigs may offer workers an option for adaptability. “The thing that I love about it is the freedom,” says Nick Walter, of Salt Lake City, Utah, who creates online classes in computer programming. “If you decide you want to go on vacation, you can do that.”

Variety. Gigs may provide workers with a chance to try several types of jobs. As a result, they present variety and career exploration to both new and experienced workers. “Take opportunities when they arise,” says Heenan. “You have a lot of chances to do different things.”

And if you’re a “people person,” gig work may offer interaction with a diverse clientele. “I love that I get to constantly work with different people,” says Hayes. “I’m pretty social, so I enjoy meeting all types.”

Passion. You might want to select gigs the same way you would traditional employment: by finding work in which you pursue your interests. And depending on how you schedule your gigs, you might be able to choose among many passions.

Some workers take gigs that allow them to encourage others in a field they enjoy. For example, retired business owner Tamma Ford of Seattle, Washington, takes consulting gigs that let her share her expertise with people who are just getting started.


There’s a lot of uncertainty associated with gig work. For example, you’ll need to have a steady stream of gigs to get consistent pay. Even then, the amount you earn may not offset some of the costs you’ll be responsible for outside of a traditional employment relationship, such as benefits.

Inconsistency. Landing enough work to provide a stable income from gigs alone isn’t always easy, or even possible. As a result, many gig workers find gigs adequate for part-time work but not a full-time career.

Workers may struggle with looking for jobs, not knowing what—if anything—will come next. “Sometimes you’re not making any money because you’re not getting any work,” says Baseman. “That part’s not really in your control.” And even after you complete a gig, you may face periods of no income if there are delays in getting paid.

Scheduling. Not having set hours or an employer who provides direction for the day is challenging for some gig workers. “Unless you’re a very dedicated, self-motivated individual, it can be hard to focus,” says Walter. “There’s no one telling you what to do, no deadlines.”

And depending on the gig, you may need to work nonstandard days or times to finish a job. If you get a gig requiring hours on the weekend, for example, you might not be able to spend time with friends who have traditional 9-to-5 workweeks.

Lack of benefits. Gig workers don’t usually get employer-paid benefits, such as premiums on health insurance and contributions to retirement plans. You’ll need to research these topics and pay for the products yourself. “I took things like health insurance for granted,” says Heenan of his former job, working at a school. “When you freelance, you have to find those things on your own, and it’s expensive.”

Other benefits that gig workers often miss out on are annual leave and sick leave. Like any employees who don’t get paid time off, no work means no pay.


The problem is Uber and on-demand jobs create a fairy tale narrative of working your own hours and reaching work-life balance. But most gig economy workers are just trying to make ends meet, which points to a problem with the real economy.

The typical Uber driver is a college-educated man, married with kids, who is supplementing a full- or part-time job with about 15 hours of driving a week, logging 20 to 30 trips, and earning an extra $300 to $400 a week (before factoring in the cost of gas and upkeep).

That's an incredibly pessimistic view of the gig economy. Another way to look at it is the labor force is starting to take control back from employers and empowering employees to pursue their own interests. The core pillars of the gig economy supplant traditional business values, it could lead to a global economy that embraces ideals like versatility and work-life balance. 

Slowly but surely, these platforms create a bridge between traditional enterprises and this emerging economy. Perhaps more important, as the global economy continues to be disrupted by technology and other massive change, the Gig Economy will itself become an engine of economic and social transformation. And workers everywhere will have something to celebrate once again.

The gig economy is still a "trivial" part of the actual economy, which is facing real problems that the gig economy simply masks: Issues such as stagnant wages, erosion of retirement savings, reduction in benefits, increasing healthcare costs, and the death of collective bargaining. The gig economy isn't a solution, it's a symptom.

When thinking through the future of work, the focus should mostly be on fixing those policies—not on a high-profile company and a gig workforce that represent a much smaller sliver of the economy than people believe.

Yeah, but the gig economy helps unemployed workers... who don't get any wages or any benefits. Gigs like Uber aren't meant to replace full-time jobs, but they're a huge lifeline for folks who are struggling to land one.

Uber helps revitalize local economies. In London, nearly a third of driver-partners live in areas where unemployment rates are highest.

But like other gig economy startups, most of Uber's gains have come at the cost of the taxi industry. It's not like Uber is adding jobs, the company is just displacing jobs. And that's the same for all these gig economy jobs. They're just putting other folks out of business.

The declines point to a dramatic shift wrought by the popular app-based transportation companies, which have wrested market share from taxi companies that have enjoyed decades of dominance in Los Angeles. The decline mirrors what's happening across the country, as taxis — regulated by local governments on everything from price to the color of their cars — struggle to compete with cheaper, more nimble start-ups.
Is the 'Uber economy' bad for society?
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