The “Gig Economy” Ahh Yes – we really needed something new to worry about. For all those luddites that don’t know what it is, the Gig Economy is that part of our economy where the workers work for themselves and sell their time to companies. Uber, Lyft, graphic artists, web site designers, consultants in many fields, musicians, writers, valets, maybe even waitstaff and cooks.
They set their own schedules, negotiate their pay, provide their own tools, and go to work. They buy their own health insurance, pay their own taxes, and live, it seems to me, a pretty nice life. Most of the Uber drivers I meet seem happy with the ‘gig’. It fits their lifestyle. Many are young, a few are retired, supplementing their income. What’s not to like.
You know what’s coming next. Out of thousands, a handful didn’t get paid on time. No health insurance, egad. What about working too many hours, shouldn’t they get overtime? Someone has to protect them. Guess who?
The government, that’s who. The ‘gig’ economy has been going for decades. But its been below the radar. Musicians, software engineers, valets, and their ilk have been happily working, often as second jobs, their ‘gigs.’
But all that’s about to be destroyed. Uber has brought the ‘gig’ economy out into the sunlight. And the nanny staters are ready to pounce. Rather than let the workers and companies decide how to make this a mutually beneficial relationship, it seems (in New York, Seattle, San Francisco, and a number of other cities) that the ‘gig’ workers need to be organized, need to be protected, regulation has to be put in place, and you know the rest.
What this basically means is that the drivers for Uber will get less money because Uber will have to charge more to deal with all the rules and regs, and then fewer people will ride in Uber because the prices are too high, and the drivers will make less money. How does that make sense?
An Uber driver told me he makes between $15 and $20 an hour net. That’s after his costs for gas, insurance, etc. That’s about $40 K a year on an 8 hour day. Some who want to make more work longer hours, some who see this as a great supplement, work less. Its not one percent money, but in a two income family (and who isn’t these days) you can live pretty well, and set your hours, pick up your kids, be home for dinner with the family. What’s not to like.
But mark my words. Big Brother will ruin it. After all, we can’t have those evil owners (shareholders?) at Uber make all those billions. Its just not fair.
This isn’t robber baron territory. 12 hour day, six day weeks, pennies an hour, mercury and asbestos everywhere. These are ‘gigs’ that the individual decides to take based on their individual talent, time, and situation.
I’m guessing that many of the gigs are transitional. But many are not. So be it. The marketplace is working as it should. There was a minor revolution at Uber when they began dynamic pricing, as immediately when the prices when up, the number of calls went down. Drivers reacted.
Management has a problem. Its hard to ‘manage’ a gig worker. They have to be more creative. Work to the workers tempo and needs. The successful ones will adjust and make it work.
At PT Media we have had ‘gig’ workers for years. They write columns, they edit, they work in graphics. We are a small company that can’t afford full time staff in those areas. So a couple of mothers of two, a retired copy editor, a consultant looking for a little extra, an artist with a home business, they all work gigs for us, and others, too.
But I can see the day coming when our ‘betters’ will pounce. It will be a sad one for all, gig workers and employers alike.
But its progress, right.