For consumers, the gig economy is convenient. People can easily hail a ride through Uber or Lyft, have meals delivered by DoorDash, hire a grocery shopper through Instacart, even find someone to help with home repairs on TaskRabbit.
For the workers, there are both pros and cons. Some appreciate the flexibility gig work provides, letting them choose their schedules and the jobs they want.
Others, however, struggle to make ends meet. A 2020 survey in New York City, for example, found that nearly half of gig workers said they worried all or most of the time about meeting their expenses, compared with less than one-fourth of those with conventional jobs.
The problem is exacerbated by the fact that gig workers don’t usually receive benefits. Traditional employers in the U.S. often provide things like health insurance and paid sick days to employees, but gig economy companies categorize their workers as independent contractors and don’t offer benefits. That keeps their fees low; industry officials estimate that making Uber or Lyft drivers employees could raise labor costs 20 to 30 percent.
There’s even debate among workers over how they’d like to be treated. The New York survey found that 57 percent of gig workers said they’d prefer to have an employer who sets their schedule and provides benefits. But others aren’t so sure.
“I love being an independent contractor, and I will fight for it,” says Pedro Acosta, an Uber driver from Brooklyn, New York. Driving for Uber, he adds, lets him take his kids to school or appointments without losing an entire day’s pay.