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COVID-19 outbreak hurting Uber drivers, language instructors, sharing economy workers Updated: 2020-03-11 17:10:49 KST

Does social distancing spell the end of the sharing economy?
Sharing platforms have become an integral part of the modern economy, and lifestyle, especially in countries like the U.S., where consumers share their possessions, homes, spaces, cars and even experiences.
But the concept of sharing and communal activities is being discouraged and avoided with the COVID-19 outbreak as authorities around the world advise social distancing.
The impact is already being felt across the tech industry.

"We're seeing a lot of, uh, reluctance to rely upon those services and a lot of people that are very reluctant to start looking at new ones and investing in new services when there are these concerns that linger around, you know, the everyday life."

Much of the sharing economy is driven by individuals from Uber drivers to language instructors and personal trainers.

Experts say the underlying weaknesses of the sharing economy, where many people are working paycheck-to-paycheck, means workers could be more vulnerable to a sudden shock like an epidemic.

"Because a lot of these platform companies don't have as great of a number of actual employees. They have contract workers that aren't fundamental employees. This is one way to grow a business very easily, right? You don't have a lot of employees. It's very easy to scale up, but the flip side of that is it's very easy to scale down as well. Say the outbreak gets worse. I'm worrying about here in the U S we have a number of people that don't have health care. What happens to those people, I think there's a real concern, uh, that's, that's going to arise if there is a much greater outbreak here in the States."

In order to move forward, it seems time is ripe for reform.

" So as the economy evolves, we need social consensus making to back it up. And the, in the long run, I think the social insurance is one of the ways to cover its weaknesses, I suppose."

As labour becomes more flexible and fluid, the shortcomings exposed by COVID-19 could be a chance to turn crisis into an opportunity.
Oh Soo-young, Arirang News.
Reporter : osy@arirang.com
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