It has never been more convenient for many of us in our daily life. Do you want food? It will be at your home in 20 minutes. Do you need to fly to the airport? There’s no need to stand on the street and take a taxi. The taxi will come to you directly. Most of us welcome these improvements in our daily lives. But to what extent have we considered the people who made these conveniences possible? Do their lives benefit from this work?
The reality is that although the prospects for flexible and rewarding jobs are optimistic, the wages of most casual workers are actually not high. Their take home pay is usually much lower than the minimum living wage, sometimes even lower than the minimum wage stipulated by law. A report by the Economic Policy Institute found that didi drivers in the United States earn about $12 an hour after deducting car costs and gasoline. These figures are far lower than the advertising revenue that many platform companies regularly advertise their employees (or “partners”).
Casual workers are also responsible for their own high start-up costs, such as providing tools and equipment for the work. It’s just that we’re not talking about hammers or ladders. We’re talking about a capital intensive car that provides little or no liquidity.
All these economic and social forces lead to a disturbing statistic: the average income of casual workers is $36500, which is about 58% lower than the average income of all employees. No wonder these workers are highly anxious.
I recently read a series of articles entitled “life in the casual economy”, which highlighted the unexpected consequences of these platform economies, especially the economic instability of workers.
This series shows that legislation is the key to solving these problems, but I think it is only part of the problem. As we can see in AB5, legislation sometimes ends with a “hammer for a nail”, and a more subtle approach is better. Uber and LYFT are not enemies – but it’s not hard to see why their drivers sometimes feel that way, because most of the benefits go to platforms (profits) and customers (convenience). What’s left of the driver? Flexible working hours are good, but not if you can’t make a living. So, how to create a system that benefits everyone? Uber’s core business model makes it unable to meet 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, and return leverage and power to individual workers by using the open platform solutions of modern financial technology concepts and functions, combined with the new functions brought by blockchain technology. If employees can create digital archives independently of any single platform, they can view the sum of their work achievements at different times and in different markets. This will give them autonomy over their experience, reputation and past performance.
Over time, we see a future where blockchain technology can be used to provide casual workers with all the advantages of traditional employment, as well as the additional benefits of flexibility and autonomy – all to help these workers grow in their careers, form more stable mechanisms, and improve their earning power and personal accomplishment.
More stability, data ownership, access to insurance, and loans for equipment financing will not only benefit workers: by making odd jobs more attractive and a truly viable employment option in the labor economy, odd job platforms will also benefit. In the end, the impact of this convenience will far outweigh its cost.
Editor in charge: CT