Part of the risk that comes with trying to make a living in the so-called “gig economy” is that the company you work for but are definitely-not-employed-by can change your earnings at any time. When Uber lowered the minimum per-delivery fee that UberEats food couriers in the UK receive from £4to £3.50 earlier this month, for example, couriers took to the streets of cities across the country and striked.
According to a new report from JPMorgan Chase & Co., which looked at the activity of 39 million checking accounts corresponding to 2.3 million families making money through online platforms, average earnings for people working in the transportation sector went down 53 percent between 2013 and 2017. According to Fiona Greig, director of consumer research for the JPMorgan Chase Institute, this data came from 36 companies that included “ridesharing, delivery, and moving companies, among others.”
According to the report, someone working in the transportation industry through online platform made $1,469 per month on average in 2013. Now, they make just shy of $800 per month on average. In every sector except leasing—renting apartments, parking spaces, and so on—median monthly earnings never exceeded $1,000. But “after accounting for costs,” the report notes, “only a small minority of participant families earn that much in profit.”
Along with the trend of decreasing earnings, the report notes that there are currently more workers operating on transportation platforms than ever before.
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The study didn’t look at how much ridesharing drivers make on a per-ride basis, Greig wrote in an email, because the bank was only able to see account activity when drivers “cash out,” usually after accepting numerous fares. However, the report states, “The fact that earnings declined more than costs [of operating as a driver], however, suggests that effective wages also fell” in the study period.
The subject of how much money rideshare drivers make, particularly through Uber, has been the subject of some back-and-forth over the years. One of former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick’s most infamous moments was a heated dispute with a driver who was aggrieved over pay structure changes.
Generally, studies have estimated that the hourly wage for Uber drivers is under minimum wage in places like New York City and San Francisco. According to the JPMorgan Chase & Co. report, 20 percent of people working on transportation platforms earn income through several platforms, and earnings from this work made up 60 percent of a family’s take-home income on average. The percentage of a family’s monthly income that platform work makes up has declined along with earnings, the report says.
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