How government can protect employees in the sharing economy: a CAM analysis

This thesis is intended to explore public policies to address employment conditions for workers in the “sharing economy.” This is a segment of the economy that has risen rapidly over the past ten years, and includes companies such as Uber, Lyft, Airbnb, Taskrabbit, and dozens of other young startups. Due to this rapid rise, the industry is largely unregulated, leaving its workers lacking worker protections and access to a social safety net. This thesis explores potential remedies to this problem. The overall goal is to identify policies that can remedy the lack of worker protections for sharing economy workers without disrupting the growth and continued innovation of sharing economy companies, and without passing too much of the burden on to consumers in the form of higher prices. To make this determination, I used Bardach’s (2012) analytical research methods, otherwise known as a Criteria Alternatives Matrix (CAM) Analysis. I analyzed four policy alternatives that policymakers have recently proposed, and determined that two of the four policies have a high likelihood of successful outcomes. Those policies are: (1) create a new category of worker—“dependent contractors,” along with some new employment benefits for those workers, and (2) mandate company contributions to portable benefits accounts for all workers. I ultimately recommended either policy as a strong option to address the issue, or a hybrid policy combining some elements of each.