Who Drives on Ride-Hailing Platforms in Latin America?: A Profile of Uber Drivers in Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Mexico

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Sep 2019
Digital platforms can improve the functioning of markets characterized by coordination problems and high levels of fragmentation, such as the transportation market. In recent years, the adoption of digital platforms across Latin America (Latam), notably in the ride-hailing sector, has been considerable. This expansion may increase the availability of better job alternatives for workers in the region, which is characterized by high levels of informality and citizen’s insecurity. To evaluate the viability of this hypothesis, we explored the characteristics of Uber drivers (UDs) by combining Uber administrative data with a survey designed and applied for this project. The characteristics we analyzed include drivers’ past and current labor profiles, labor aspirations, and financial behaviors. We found that the average UD in Latam is male, 38 years old, and highly educated. Most drivers have no previous experience in the transportation sector. The mean duration of use of the platform is 19 hours per week, and the majority of UDs use it less than 30 hours per week. The average hourly gross income for UDs utilizing the platform is three times a given country’s hourly minimum wage, with slight disparities by country, gender, and age. The main reasons cited for joining the platform are the ability to generate more income and have work more flexible working hours. Only 40% of drivers would choose to work a fulltime job (that provides the same total income from all sources) over driving for Uber. The majority of UDs are financially stretched or insecure and show low levels of retirement preparedness. However, UDs have a strong desire to accumulate more savings, at least in the short term. Based on these findings, we suggest different policy alternatives to leverage ride-hailing platforms to improve the lives of their drivers in Latin America, including facilitating the participation of women and migrants as drivers, promoting financial inclusion and financial literacy, easing voluntary contributions to retirement products and exploring alternatives to acquire coverage against multiple risks, including paying social security contributions.