For many of us, the everyday activities of life have never been more convenient. Want food? It can be at your home within 20 minutes. Need a flight to the airport? No need to stand on the street to hail a taxi, the taxi will come straight to you. Most of us welcome these improvements in our daily lives. But to what extent do we take into account the people who make these conveniences possible? Did their lives benefit from this work?

Reality dictates this: Despite the rosy outlook for flexible, rewarding work, most gig workers aren’t actually paid well. Their take-home pay is often well below the living wage, and sometimes even below the legal minimum wage. A report by the Economic Policy Institute found that Didi drivers in the U.S. earn about $12 an hour after deducting car expenses and gas. These figures are far lower than the ad revenue many platform companies often advertise their employees (or “partners”).

Gig workers also shoulder the burden of their own high start-up costs, such as providing the tools and equipment needed for their jobs. Except we’re not talking about hammers or ladders. We’re talking a capital-intensive car that provides little or no liquidity.

All of these economic and social forces lead to a troubling statistic: The average gig worker earns $36,500, about 58% less than the average full-time worker. No wonder these workers are highly anxious.

I recently read a series called “Life in the Gig Economy,” which highlighted the unintended consequences of these platform economies, especially the economic instability of workers.

This series of articles shows that legislative work is the key to solving these problems, but I think this is only part of the problem. As we saw with AB5, legislation can sometimes end up with a ‘hammer finding the nail’ when a more nuanced approach would be better. Uber and Lyft aren’t enemies – but it’s not hard to see why their drivers sometimes feel that way, since most of the benefits go to the platform (profit) and the customer (convenience). What’s left of the driver? Flexible hours are great, but not if you can’t make ends meet. So how do you create a system that benefits everyone? Uber’s core business model prevents it from meeting the financial needs of its drivers, such as access to short-term cash bridges, debt, savings and insurance.

I believe that technology can help solve these problems by returning leverage and power to individual workers through open platform solutions using modern fintech concepts and capabilities, combined with new capabilities brought about by blockchain technology. If employees can create digital profiles independent of any single platform, they will be able to view the sum of their work across time and across markets. This will give them ownership over their experience, reputation and past performance.

Over time, we see a future state where blockchain technology can be used to provide gig workers with all the advantages of traditional employment, with the added benefits of flexibility and autonomy — all to help these workers Grow in your career, forming a more stable mechanism, increasing earning power and personal fulfillment.

More stability, data ownership, access to insurance, and loans to finance equipment will not only benefit workers: by making gig work more attractive and a genuinely viable employment option in the workforce economy, gig platforms will also benefit. Ultimately, the impact of this convenience will far outweigh its cost.

Responsible editor: ct

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