Uber for welfare?
By Alberto Mingardi
We should Uberize our safety net.
This might appear to be a bold statement but it is actually rather commonsensical. Cesare Rhonda and Derek Khanna have put the idea forward in an interesting op-ed for Politico. The so-called sharing economy lowers transaction costs and makes the equilibration of supply and demand easier. If a number of the jobs that can now find “customers,” thanks to Uber or Thumbtack, can actually be used by some people to supplement income, so they should be available to people that do not have, presently, an income to supplement.
Historically, some opponents of workfare have argued that work requirements are untenable because the government cannot find a job for every welfare beneficiary. That may have been true years ago, when a “job” was binary and full time, but today the gig economy offers the solution: It can easily and quickly put millions of people back to work, allowing almost anyone to find a job with hours that are flexible with virtual locations anywhere. Much of this work is well above minimum wage and it can further the careers of workers as well. With a wide array of different employment options, workers can choose jobs better tailored to their skill-sets and upgrade their skills, which can advance their careers.
Government should thus expand the boundaries of “welfare-to-work” to include all of the “new” professions: “work requirements should ensure that everyone who is capable of performing a job in the gig economy does so”.
I can easily picture many people who are likely to protest that this is another strategy of the “top 1%” to keep low skilled workers’ salaries down. It seems to me that they tend to overlook the importance, for self esteem and dignity, of actually performing a job. The “uberization of welfare” may be a somewhat over-the-top slogan. But certainly the sharing economy is allowing some people to experience the feeling of self-reliance and independence.
The article is here.