The180·The 180

Is society better off with more contract workers?

Led by 'sharing economy' companies like Uber, jobs that were once occupied by employees are now being taken on by independent contractors. We explore the pros and cons.
Listen14:08

There is a shift happening in the workplace. Led by so-called 'sharing economy' companies such as Uber, jobs that were once occupied by employees are now being taken on by independent contractors.

Supporters say this means lower prices for consumers, fewer costs for bosses, and a chance for workers to gain entrepreneurial experience and liberty. But Mark Thompson is concerned that this workplace shift represents a break in the social contract and society will still have to pay the price in the end. He is a professor emeritus at UBC's Sauder School of Business and a research associate with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

If [contractors] are hurt on the job, the cost of medical care will be borne by our medical services plan, and if they lose work there's no buffer for society.- Mark Thompson

Phillip Hochstein, President of the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association of BC, disagrees. He says money is being put into the system by all businesses, regardless of size, and independent contractors contribute their fair share by paying income tax and goods and services taxes. He says companies like Uber are the way of the future.

No one's forcing anybody to participate in Uber, to be a driver for Uber. If it doesn't meet the current tax regime, the idea isn't to force these people into a tax regime, it's to adjust the tax regime to better reflect the way the economy is going.- Philip Hochstein

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