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Edition 419 – The Underclass

The gig economy. You’ve heard the term. You might or might not understand what it means. We’ve been told for the past 15 years that this is the way of the world and, as it happens, some very large, global players have popped up out of nowhere, had a bright idea, then proceeded to disrupt various elements of society.

For most of us, where we see the gig economy at work is in the numerous ride sharing and meal delivery platforms that have proliferated in recent years.

In my opinion, one of the issues associated with the gig economy is that it appears to be creating a whole new underclass of people. People that are on a low hourly rate, with minimal workplace protections, using their private vehicles, to deliver people, or goods, from A to B.

If I decide at 9pm that dinner didn’t quite satisfy me, and that I’d like a pizza, or ice cream, delivered to my home as a late night snack, I can tap on my phone, place an order and expect it to arrive inside a set period of time – and track the progress of the driver in the process.

Invariably, aren’t I too lazy, too disorganised, or heaven forbid, too glutenous to the point where I’m expecting a servant to provide for me, inside a guaranteed period of time, my order? Doesn’t that sound like a 21st Century take on the maids and butlers of Downton Abbey to you? And, if it is, what would you think if you came to my home, were greeted by Carson at the front door, and had tea poured by Daisy or Mrs Patmore?

I venture out for coffee often enough, early in the morning, to see these people pick up, unbelievably, a single takeaway coffee, to then deliver it to someone who has more economic power than the individual that will deliver it to them. To me, there’s something just not right about that.

If you’re using these platforms, have you asked yourself:

  1. What’s the price I’m paying vs. what I would have paid if I’d done my shopping on my way home from work (people complain when fuel is $2 per litre but once, I did the numbers for someone who did order ice cream via an online platform – it was $46 per litre).
  2. What’s the person, who knocks on my front door to deliver my food, truly earning on an hourly basis, and is that a fair rate?
  3. Is that same person paid for the whole hour they’re on call, or only when they’re on a delivery? If that’s the case, how would you feel if any downtime in your workplace, to make coffee or visit the bathroom, was not paid?
  4. What are the employment conditions of those individuals and what happens to them if they’re injured, or worse, on the job?
  5. How much are the large gig economy operators skimming off the top, by charging you and charging the hospitality provider, and where is the tax on those earnings being paid?

Someone, somewhere, has become very rich on this idea. My guess is that it’s not the consumer, nor the vendor, and certainly not the deliverer.

This Week’s Tip

“Next time you order online via one of these portals, ask yourself those five questions above?
It might just change your way of thinking.”