With the rapid development of Internet technology, the sharing economy as a new type of economy gradually enters people’s lives. It integrates and shares the idle resources around people through the Internet platform with those who need them, thus realizing the rationalized use of resources and creating new value (John, 2016). The rise of the sharing economy has triggered widespread concern. Some people are already making money with the help of internet platforms such as Uber and Airbnb. Moreover, these platforms also provide people with more convenient services. However, the sharing economy has also triggered a series of ethical challenges, such as labor rights and confrontation with traditional industries. This blog will focus on the ethical challenges facing the sharing economy: the example of Uber.
Detailed introductory video on the sharing economy：
The sharing economy is widely recognized as a solution to the uneven distribution of economic and human resources faced by today’s society (Kim et al., 2018) Because the sharing economy allows people to use idle human resources and their time, etc., it increases people’s sideline businesses. For example, Uber, a ride-sharing platform, allows some commuters with full-time jobs to use their off-duty time to receive passengers. As one of the products of the sharing economy, Uber has brought many benefits and positively impacted riders, drivers, and society’s economy.
Advantages of uber：
- Uber provides a convenient way for people to travel. (Passengers can call a taxi with the help of cell phone software, reducing waiting time.)
- Uber provides more job opportunities for people. (Uber drivers do not need a high level of education; they only need a vehicle that meets the requirements, providing an additional income source for many people.)
- Uber drivers have free time (no fixed working hours; they can take orders in their free time)
However, the sharing economy also poses a number of ethical challenges.
Disadvantages of uber：
- Uber software is a security risk
For example, in July 2016, a West Hollywood victim of rape by an online driver sued Uber. She accused the ride-hailing company, which advertises itself as “the safest ride service on the road,” of failing to conduct detailed background checks on its drivers (Smith, 2016). This ultimately led to this type of case. Additionally, a few months ago this year, a woman in Oakland was horrified when, after taking a ride home via Uber, she realized that the Uber driver had been snooping around her home after dropping her off (Kinnear, 2023). All these cases have exposed the safety hazards of Uber and the difficulty of the sharing economy platform to protect the personal safety of its users. In the traditional cab business, drivers go through long and professional vocational training and background checks.
On the contrary, sharing economy platforms like Uber do not conduct background checks or professional training for their drivers. These loopholes provide opportunities for drivers to commit crimes. When accidents occur, Uber defends itself by claiming that it is not a traditional transportation company but rather an online platform that connects customers and drivers and that many of the problems result from the drivers’ faults, which are not Uber’s(Smith, 2016).
The video was taken by a passenger. In the video, the driver uses his cell phone to make online purchases while driving. The behavior distracts the driver, causing them to be unable to focus on driving and increasing the risk of a crash. Also, the passengers will not feel safe, and this incident will also show that the Uber company is lax in controlling the drivers.
- Labor rights: fair treatment
While the growth of the sharing economy can boost jobs and incomes, the issue of labor rights has yet to be well protected. The issue of labor rights on the Uber platform has been under public scrutiny. According to the statements of Uber drivers, it is “misleading” for the company to advocate for flexible working hours for its employees who believe they are now considered employees without any benefits (Beazley, 2023). Uber drivers mostly use their free time to pick up orders, and no one controls their working hours. Nevertheless, this also means that this group has no social security and corresponding welfare benefits. Also, Uber drivers are not guaranteed a minimum wage, and they must regularly maintain their vehicles to ensure they can receive orders (Jalloh, 2023). According to the latest quarterly earnings report of Uber Inc. for the year 2023, one learns about the annual revenue growth rate increase and profitability. However, behind this earnings growth is that Uber company utilizes artificial intelligence algorithms and upfront pricing policies to squeeze drivers’ wages (Sherman, 2023).Uber drivers believe that the prices are too low to cover the costs and that the drivers’ rights are not being protected. This seemingly flexible work brings freedom but also means that labor rights are not protected on some level.
- Price reasonableness of car use
In 2023, Uber introduced Dynamic Pricing Algorithm in London, worth increasing prices during peak hours (Skelton, 2023). However, this pricing strategy resulted in users having to pay for high taxi fares, which triggered user dissatisfaction. When users face a situation where they must take a taxi, they will pay a high price. This is an ethical, moral challenge. At the same time, this pricing strategy of Uber faces the issue of market equity. Cabs in the traditional industry have fixed pricing. Uber’s high pricing strategy is undoubtedly disrupting the market order, and drivers in the traditional industry may need to be more competitive to face a difficult situation.
As one of the early representatives of the sharing economy, the existence of Uber reflects the use of capital to circumvent market regulation by utilizing the sharing economy or borrowing the idea of the sharing economy. Moreover, these have implications for states, businesses, and individuals. For the state, uber is a new economic model in a blank field, so the state did not realize the negative impact of Uber at the beginning. Moreover, uber can increase employment and promote economic development. However, with the problems of Uber in recent years, the government has introduced relevant policies to regulate Uber. Enterprises have also stepped up their efforts to protect the personal safety of passengers over the past few years, gradually emphasizing workers’ rights. As for individuals, although they do not have the power to enforce the law, they can carry out public opinion campaigns and supervision; they can also make more people realize the problems of Uber.
This blog reflects on the ethical challenges posed by the sharing economy by shedding light on Uber’s existing issues. The sharing economy brings certain benefits to people, but it is essential to prevent the sharing economy from becoming highly capitalistic. These issues are used to realize the importance of regulating the platforms under the sharing economy.
Beazley, J. (2023, March 28). Uber drivers criticise rideshare giant’s ‘misleading’ campaign spruiking flexibility for Australian workers. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2023/mar/28/uber-drivers-criticise-rideshare-giants-misleading-campaign-spruiking-flexibility-for-australian-workers
Jalloh, M. S. (2023, April 22). Uber: Advantages and disadvantages. Investopedia. https://www.investopedia.com/articles/investing/110614/taxi-industry-pros-cons-uber-and-other-ehail-apps.asp
John, N. A. (2016). The age of sharing. Polity.
Kim, K., Baek, C., & Lee, J. D. (2018). Creative destruction of the sharing economy in action: The case of Uber. Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, 110, 118–127. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tra.2018.01.014
Kinnear, C. (2023, August 1). Watch: ‘I felt really unsafe’ – Uber driver snoops around woman’s house moments after dropping her home. New Zealand Herald. https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/watch-i-felt-really-unsafe-uber-driver-snoops-around-womans-house-moments-after-dropping-her-home/MC4G6OJNXVA37IH5DUK3FUXCVU/
Sherman, L. (2023, January 16). Uber’s new math: Increase prices and squeeze driver pay. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/lensherman/2023/01/16/ubers-new-math-increase-prices-and-squeeze-driver-pay
Skelton, S. K. (2023, March 2). Uber introduces dynamic pricing algorithm in London. Computer Weekly. https://www.computerweekly.com/news/365531767/Uber-introduces-dynamic-pricing-algorithm-in-London
Smith, N. C. (2016, November 11). Who’s responsible? The ethics of the sharing economy. INSEAD Knowledge. https://knowledge.insead.edu/responsibility/whos-responsible-ethics-sharing-economy
Ven, H. (2022, September 17). Uber driver caught doing this #shorts #caught #uber #uberdriver [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/shorts/b5G-6VTWZb4