The next time you tap for an Uber ride or a Lyft lift somewhere, it’s increasingly likely that the driver will be over 50.
It’s part of a trend: retirees and soon-to-be retirees are turning to ridesharing and other transportation opportunities to supplement retirement funds and replace income.
But government is threatening to step in with some new regulations that will hamper both Uber and the drivers who are acting as contractors and earning an income. If the government regulates Uber more heavily, it will be harmful to the financial wellbeing of these older employees.
According to the AARP, nearly one third of American workers are over 50 years old – a sign that the U.S. workforce is aging as men and women over 65 outnumber teens for the first time since 1948. It’s not surprising given that the recession set many retirees and those close to retirement on shaky and unstable ground.
The economy has recovered with a weak job market in tow. For those who dropped out of the job market by retiring or are working in low or lower paying jobs, their retirement is probably not what they expected it would be.
Innovation and technology is changing that. We often focus on how ride sharing and other companies that have sprung up to disrupt traditional industries such as transportation, hotels/accommodations, are powerful drivers of opportunity for millennials, but now we’re seeing how older Americans are benefiting as well.
Uber has said that as many as one in four of its drivers is now over 50 years old. Uber's competitor Lyft is also seeing a growing number of drivers over 50 years old.
It’s important to remember then that we don’t need government regulations to stifle innovation and discourage the entrepreneurial spirit that drives innovation and disruption.
Numerous cities, states and countries are trying to put the brakes on Uber because taxicab and car service companies use their crony dollars to lobby lawmakers to lock out competition.
Adding to this, a California court ruling this week that Uber drivers are not contractors but employees may mean more costs and a change in the way ridesharing companies operate. Reuters reports:
A driver for Uber is an employee, not a contractor, according to a California ruling that eventually could push up costs for the smartphone-based ride hailing service and hurt the closely watched start-up's valuation.
The ruling – which Uber insisted applied to only one driver – was the latest in a series of legal and regulatory challenges facing the company and other highly valued start-ups in the United States and other countries.
Classifying Uber drivers as employees could mean considerably higher costs for the company, including Social Security, workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance.
Uber said in a statement that officials in five other states have found that its drivers are independent contractors.
And in 2012, the same California commission found that another Uber driver was an independent contractor, citing evidence such as the ability of the driver to determine his own hours.
But in this case, where the commission appeared to have considered a broader range of factors, officials found Uber is "involved in every aspect of the operation."
Uber has said this ruling only applies to one Uber driver. We’ll have to wait to see how this plays out. Although the ruling affects only California, the state is Uber's home base, one of its largest markets, and is a beacon for regulators and courts in other states.
The implications could be far reaching because the government’s role in the internal operations of a company grow significantly with employees than with contractors from minimum wage rates to accusations discriminatory practices.
And this won’t just be limited to ridesharing companies. Other app-based companies that connect consumers of goods or services with producers, who might all be categorized as independent contractors, may be at risk.
For the young people and the retirees who turn to Uber or other tech-companies to earn a living, opportunity may be on the line.