When I miss my last bus home after a night out with friends, I don’t have to panic. Instead, it’s a no-brainer: I can just hazily flick through my smartphone and open my Uber app, through which I can summon a driver to pick me up. For car-less people like me, Uber and other smartphone app-based hailing services are often a cheap and convenient option to get around the city.
But what can my mindless app request mean for the mostly immigrant drivers on the other end of my smartphone?
For some, like Tekele Gobena, it can mean a dismal hourly wage. By the end of 2014, Gobena had put nearly 40,000 miles on his car after just seven months of driving for Uber. When it came time to do his taxes, he realized he was only making $2.64 an hour as an independent contractor for Uber after car maintenance, vehicle insurance, gas, and Uber’s commission from his rides.