Gig economy may mean lower unemployment rates but not livable wages in Nashville

Nashville 2019

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – The gig economy is on the rise in Nashville but it’s unlikely you’ll be able to make a full-time living.

Bob Tyler says he drove for Lyft for nearly four years. What started as a side gig to supplement his income, turned into a passion.

He still remembers his first passenger.

“She said ‘I’m sorry but we’re going to the belly of the beast – Broadway.’ I just couldn’t stop laughing and I said, oh my God this the job for me,” Tyler told News 2.

Tyler said it stopped being fun when Lyft hired more drivers and his hourly rate fell below minimum wage.

“So you go out and expect to make money and instead there’s 100,000 drivers and 20,00 customers,” said Tyler. “I don’t even know how anybody can do this and justify it if they have a mathematical brain. It works out to about seven dollars an hour.”

According to the Brookings Institution, Tyler isn’t alone. The Institution studied the “gig” economy in Nashville. It says that companies are trying to pass low prices onto customers to stay competitive.

“So a lot of workers that were accustomed to either being paid a certain wage or receiving certain benefits or benchmarks, they might lose those as a result of the company needing to run at the lowest operating margin,” said Robert Maxim with the Brookings Institution.

Maxim also says that low unemployment rates in Nashville doesn’t mean that people are making livable wages.

Plus, people who are drawn to the gig economy because of the flexible hours don’t get retirement plans, healthcare or paid leave so it may end up costing them more money than they think.

“They tend not to get worker protection benefits in the way a full-time employee would,” said Maxim.

Tyler agrees.

“I think it’s easy to take advantage of these people,” Tyler said.

A Lyft spokesman said in a statement:

“On average, Lyft drivers earn over $30 per hour and over 75 percent of drivers drive less than 10 hours a week to supplement existing jobs. Drivers have earned more than $14B since we launched. We know that access to flexible, extra income makes a big difference for millions of people, and we’re constantly working to improve how we can best serve our driver community.”

News 2 is reporting on Nashville’s historic growth and the growing pains that come with it. Click here for more Nashville 2019 reports.

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