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As of late, the cost of an Uber or Lyft ride has significantly increased. Surge pricing and a driver shortage has made it more difficult than before for the consumer to request the ridehailing companies’ services. Because of this, much of the commentary on explaining this has been reportedly deemed a consequence of a “labor shortage,” largely motivated by a lack of proper financial incentives.
A ride-hail driver assistance app reportedly estimated that Uber has increased its prices by 79% since the second quarter of 2019. In its May earnings report, Uber reportedly said it had 3.5 million active drivers and couriers in the first quarter of the year, down 22% from the previous year. The following is what Motherboard noted is what left the consumer with a sudden and massive spike in Uber and Lyft prices.
The theories go as follows: To offset these shortages, Uber and Lyft began offering bonuses to its drivers, which as Motherboard reported, drivers saw these efforts to lure them back as insufficient. Others decided the risk of getting infected with COVID-19 or one of its budding variants wasn’t worth the hassle. Some analyses even suggested drivers were content with living on stimulus funds rather than working and earning money from driving. And at the same time, the ridehailing companies began curtailing subsidies that kept prices low enough to attract riders and work towards monopoly.
Analysts have said new perks such as education, career, and expense programs that Uber and Lyft are reportedly thinking about offering, don’t strike at core problems with the gig economy that were driving workers away before COVID-19 hit and are making it difficult to attract them now. Motherboard spoke with former and current ride-hail drivers, who pointed to a major factor for not returning: “how horrible it is to work for Uber and Lyft.” As told to the publication, the problems with the apps either brought the issues to light or exacerbated them.
“If I kept driving, something was going to break,” a former driver in New York who spent four years working for Uber and Lyft before the pandemic reportedly told them. “I already go nights without eating or sleeping. My back hurt, my joints hurt, my neck hurt, I felt like a donkey. Like a slave driving all the time.”
“I’ve been driving for six years. Uber has taken at least £10,000 in commission from me each year!” a London-based Uber driver told Motherboard at the time. “I don’t understand how they can take £60,000 from me, then offer nothing when I’m in need. How can I provide for my partner and two kids with this? My employer has let me down.”
In California since the passage of Prop. 22, Uber and Lyft made a long series of changes to driver pay structures. In recent months, the Washington Post uncovered that the companies —Uber in particular— were keeping the majority of fare hikes for themselves as part of a long-developing uncoupling of driver pay from passenger fares.
“I woke up every day asking how long I could keep it up, I just didn’t feel like a person,” a driver who worked for Lyft in California for the past six years until the pandemic. “I got two kids, my mother, my sister, I couldn’t see them. And I was doing all this for them but I could barely support them, barely supported myself.”
Moreover, as Uber and Lyft rallied support for Prop. 22, the ridehail companies began to allow drivers to set their own prices and preview destinations. But after Prop. 22 passed, those new changes were rolled back, and pay rates began to slip.
They continued, “[I]was coming back negative some days. I tried UberEats and DoorDash to see if that was any better, but stopped after a friend was almost robbed on a [food] delivery. Okay, so the options are get covid or get robbed, then guess what: I’m doing none of them.”
As Motherboard wrote, “Ultimately, many drivers are refusing to join the platform for the same reasons that drivers left the platform: it’s demeaning, dehumanizing work that doesn’t pay well for the vast majority of drivers who then go on to quit.”
“I’ve been with them for five years and I’m not coming back,” a former driver based in Washington, D.C. reportedly shared. “All the drivers I know either stopped and don’t plan on coming back, stopped and are waiting for things to really change before they come back, or are asking every moment why they are still driving. It’s not just the money.”