Older Australians are leaping en masse into the share economy as an easy way to make money, although a Griffith University economist is warning this will soon make it harder for all involved.
Cost of living in Queensland
This week we are looking at how we’re making ends meet, and how Queenslanders are stretching their dollar further.
The flexibility of the so-called peer economy lured Gold Coast business owner Tracy Chapman to become an Uber driver 15 months ago.
“It was actually my mother who talked me into it, because she was using it because she doesn’t drive,” she said.
“I thought after a couple of months I might get fed up but, no, it’s easy to do and you meet wonderful people.”
Ms Chapman, 52, owns a snack food business and is starting an online business.
She said she had come to rely on Uber for about half her income.
“I’ve got a mortgage. You’ve got bills and trying to get businesses up and going, so it is definitely a difficult thing to do,” she said.
Ms Chapman is one of 72,000 Uber drivers in Australia.
She has completed about 1,200 trips and said she spent about 20 hours a week behind the wheel.
“You can turn it on and off whenever you want, so it’s adaptable to your lifestyle,” she said.
“Because of the ease of it and how you can fit it in with other businesses or whatever you may be doing, it’s fantastic for that reason.”
High school rock and roll dance teachers Rob and Kathy Llewellyn rent out spare bedrooms in the Burleigh Heads home to supplement their incomes.
“We need to maintain our lifestyle — Airbnb pays us nice pocket money,” Mr Llewellyn said.
“Our earning power has now virtually stopped, but the bills keep going up and up.”
The couple opened their doors to paying guests two years ago and have earnt as much as $8,000 in a year.
“We enjoy meeting people and our house has got two spare rooms, so we enjoy the camaraderie you get by inviting guests in,” Mr Llewellyn said.
Ms Llewellyn agreed, saying the flexibility worked for them.
“We are hoping to slow down a little bit with the dancing,” she said.
Across Australia, there are 115,000 rooms and properties listed on Airbnb.
Rob and Kathy Llewellyn rent rooms in the Burleigh Heads home for extra income. (ABC News: Tom Forbes)
Returns will fall as more people join in
Griffith University senior economics lecturer Dr Parvinder Kler said older Australians were embracing the online share economy.
“Very recently, as this new technology has become entrenched, there has been a huge uptake of older Australians,” he said.
“We’ve found, using the share economy trust index, that you have 27 per cent of Australians that we described as being over 55 years old now improving their lifestyle after earning an income from the sharing economy.”
But he said people should be prepared for that supplementary to fall as more people joined the share economy.
“We are talking about an industry where there’s easy entry and easy exit,” he said.
“The returns will eventually fall because it is so easy for people to enter.”
Dr Kler said the sharing economy had already impacted heavily on motels and taxi companies.
“We call this creative destruction in economic parlance and there will be a lot of disruption,” he said.
“But we are starting to see in the taxi industry, for example, how the entry of Uber has led to the taxi industry to improve.
“They are much more friendly, the taxis are cleaner and the drivers are polite and the experience has improved.”
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