Travel Day: When the Gig Economy Works

The gig economy — contingent work with no benefits or real job security — doesn’t generally work very well as a primary income, unless you’re a skilled professional with a portfolio much in demand. But the gig economy works quite well to augment whatever else you might do.

My Lyft driver from my home in Seattle to SeaTac airport was a pilot for one of the smaller regional airlines. He was on call for 24 hours — had to be to the airport within 2 hours to sub in for a pilot who had timed out, become ill, or was otherwise unable to fly — and he lives quite far north of the city. Driving for Lyft allowed him to spend the day within greater Seattle, where he could clock off almost immediately if notified to report, and get to the airport within about 20 minutes. Driving allowed him to make money during this on call time, which he was using to pay off student loans. His regular job as a pilot provided him job security, advancement, and benefits.

He was clearly single and had no family responsibilities which would compete for his “down time”, and this sounded to me like a perfect plan. I’ve also had drivers who are retired with modest pensions and Medicare, for whom the added income makes a real difference. Many of the drives are immigrants who come from countries where security was non-existent; they are prepared to work hard and without much expectation for benefits beyond the chance to earn a living.

Whatever the merits, or lack thereof, of the gig economy, it’s here to stay. Has the gig economy touched your life? How? I and my readers are curious.

 

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