UBER: BETWEEN LIBERALISM AND PRECARIOUSNESS
When Uber appeared in France, it was a revolution. You could have a taxi ride for a lower price, no need to have cash on you and, le must, you generally had a nice driver and bottles of water. It seemed like a dream. With Uber Pool, you could have a ride for even cheaper and, sometimes, have interesting encounters. On the other side, it was said that this new way of working would allow people to get out of poverty, to find a job by self-employing themselves, to increase their monthly income, etc. But is it really the case?
These days, I wonder if I should even take a Uber ride. I think my dilemma is similar to the one concerning children working in Bangladesh. Should we stop those children from working, and therefore put an additional strain on their families’ financial difficulties, or should we let children bring a small income home, at the price of getting no proper education. Here, the dilemma is as follow: should we get on a Uber and help those drivers making a living, or should we strongly oppose this ultra-liberal, non protective, and from my point of view exploitative form of labor? The company would say they ‘only’ take 25% out of those drivers’ income. If they make 4 000 euros a month, that is still plenty of money. But it means that the company is putting aside all the running costs, pushed onto the drivers (buying a car, taking care of it, paying for insurance, parking and gas, etc.). According to Le Monde, after paying for running costs and taxes, the drivers making 4 000 euros (gross) are left with… 600 euros (net). Is that a correct income? I don’t think so.
Moreover, those drivers have almost no safety net. As they work as entrepreneurs, they are not covered by Uber in case of an accident. They cannot rely on anyone else when they are sick. This is an example of neoliberal economy pushed to a new extreme. But we are pretty much indifferent, because ‘if they did not have Uber, they would be jobless’. Many people do not understand why Uber drivers would be on strikes in France, but if you think that after working 40h a week (the legal limit for employed people in France in 35) you have 600 euros left, I think it’s understandable to see those drivers on the streets, demanding better working conditions. Especially when you see that Uber has made more than $5 billion in 2016. Uber, an amazing ‘start-up’, praised all over the world for it’s amazing growth, but built on people’s suffering. Is this right? I don’t think so.