Pros and Cons of “The Uber for Housecleaning”

8392420197_c878e5770a_zLydia DePillis at the Washington Post wrote about the new “Uber for home cleaning” companies like the one I used this week. This one focuses on Homejoy, and smartly discusses a lot of the pros and cons.

Pros: People who didn’t have work find it. People who wouldn’t typically pay for these services pay for them. The money can be good-ish. The company takes care of the marketing and customer acquisition. The company interviews workers, though doesn’t train them. The company has a website? They text you?

Cons: no worker’s compensation (there is insurance for damages to the customer’s home, but not the worker’s body!), workers don’t get paid for travel time, no unemployment insurance, no retirement, no health insurance, no taxes witheld. No benefits, essentially. And no set schedule or guaranteed work.

That’s the tradeoff in moving toward independent contracting in the service economy, where people order services online just as they would order batteries or a pair of shoes. Homejoy is pitched toward younger people with disposable income who may feel awkward about using domestic help; clients don’t have to interact with the cleaner if they don’t want to, which makes it feel as though they’re ordering a product, not human labor.

The question for Walker and thousands like him is: Can these new kinds of jobs support the type of life they might have lived with the old ones?

My guess is no, no they cannot.

Compare this model to the old school cleaning services:

Maidpro, which started in 1991 and has franchises nationwide. Maidpro compensates its employees through the other industry-standard model: an hourly pay rate, including all travel time. The wage varies by an employee’s experience, but chief executive Mark Kushinsky says that only 5 percent of the staff makes less than $10.10 an hour (the national average wage for maids and housekeeping cleaners is $10.64, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics). On top of that, he pays payroll and Social Security taxes, worker’s compensation and some benefits such as paid time off, which differ across franchises.

They also train their employees, so there is a set standard. And as a customer, you know the person who is working for you.

Homejoy recently raised 40 million in venture capital.

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