Controversial driver app Uber told its Australian users this week that it’s goal is to create 20,000 new jobs in 2015. But can it be believed?
It comes as debate rages in Australia between the tech company, traditional taxi business and regulators over the app’s place in the driver/passenger market.
In an email sent to Aussie subscribers on Wednesday, titled ‘Uber creating 20,000 new jobs in Australia in 2015’, the company, which has been coming under fire from traditional taxi businesses, said it was committed to opening up economic opportunity and making roads safer in cities down under:
“Yesterday, our Senior Vice President, David Plouffe, announced that Uber is committed to creating 20,000 new jobs in Australia in 2015,“ the email said.
“We are setting ourselves a challenge which we believe we can achieve through partnership with governments and organisations who share our vision of opening up economic opportunity in every city.
“Each of these new jobs will be filled by people who have passed rigorous criminal and driving history background checks, who are fully insured, and who are seeking to earn a flexible income to support their families.
“They are like Debra, a single mother training to be a nurse in Queensland. Or Patrick, who is supporting his daughter’s tennis career (and coaching her) through driving UberX in Sydney. Or Adam who is saving to buy a house for his young family in Melbourne.
“These drivers help power their city’s economy, keep our roads safer and reduce congestion.”
The company has also posted video testimonials from some of its drivers as part of its campaign to woo customers and regulators:
But according to Gizmodo, Uber only has 50 job vacancies advertised across Australia at the moment. So where are the other 19,950 careers?
What Uber really means to say is that they intend to have 20,000 more Australians signed up to be UberX drivers. In other words, their goal is to have 20,000 more Aussies have a crack at sticking their hand up to say ‘I’ll take ya for a few extra bucks!’.
Now, while Uber does claim to vet drivers with background checks and vehicle safety checks, it’s a bit of a stretch to say they ‘employ’ people – drivers are not paid wages, there are no sick or leave benefits, and expenses and car costs are all the responsibility of the driver. At best they are contractors or self-employed.
And will they earn a decent living from Uber? Over in the US, in response to a question on Quora.com ‘How many UberX drivers actually make $70k a year?’ after a driver recruitment ad posted on Facebook dangled that carrot, former UberX driver Scott Banks responded:
“None to nearly none. In the end it all depends on the market, but there are normally too many drivers on at any given time to average the amount needed to make that kind of money, especially as UberX.
“I work the busy hours, and clear about 1k a month. Adding hours outside of peak would likely only improve this marginally.”
Will Uber create 20,000 jobs? It depends how you define a ‘job’ and whether everyone who gives driving a go is actually getting enough action to make a reasonable buck. And they fail to mention how many traditional taxi industry jobs they will destroy along the way.
What is certain is that Uber and tech businesses like it have upended traditional business models for good – just ask the film, publishing and advertising industries. Taxis no longer have a closed shop, whether they like it or not. The customers like the new ways of doing things and the customer is always right.