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The sharing economy’s dark side

At first glance, there are plenty of upsides to jobs in the sharing economy, said Catherine Rampell. “Flexible hours. Being your own boss. The glories and self-bootstrapping pride of entrepreneurship.” But there’s a “dark side” to being a driver for Uber, a host with Airbnb, or a helper-for-hire with TaskRabbit. Namely, corporations are able to shift risk and burdens off their balance sheets and “onto the shoulders of individual Americans, who may not even realize what kinds of liabilities they’re taking on.”



In these arrangements, it’s the workers who bear the risk of unstable incomes because of “demand shocks or price cuts”; of   “irreversible capital investments,” such as new cars or equipment needed to do their jobs; and of unforeseen legal liabilities. And they enjoy far fewer protections—such as workers’ compensation or unemployment benefits—than do traditional workers. These developments aren’t new; companies have been shredding workers’ safety nets for decades. But while these arrangements benefit corporate bottom lines, they also “introduce much more instability into the lives of middle-class workers.” Before that can be reversed, “America probably needs a more robust government safety net to help workers deal with the fallout.”

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