Management and Control Via Apps: A Qualitative Study of Australian Gig Worker Experiences across Two Platform-Based Apps

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 18:45
Oral Presentation
Caleb GOODS, University of Western Australia, Australia
Alex VEEN, University of Sydney, Australia
Tom BARRATT, University of Western Australia, Australia
The rise of the ‘gig’ economy has been enabled by advancements in online communication and mobile technology and fuelled by venture capital. Despite the explosive rise in ‘gig’ work, limited research exists on workers’ lived-experiences in the sector. This paper explores questions of control and power in the labour process of the emerging ‘gig’ economy. More particularly, we focus upon the ‘platform-based app’ food-delivery sector of the Australian ‘gig’ economy, assessing how power and control is experienced and exercised by workers in these ‘novel’ organisational forms. The paper draws upon 40 semi-structured interviews and focus-group discussions conducted with food-delivery workers across several Australian capital cities. The findings reveal how workers experience and challenge different forms of control, as well as seek to exert forms of agency. They further highlight the marginally or contingently attached nature of food-delivery workers in the Australian labour market, who seek out ‘gig’ jobs because of low entry barriers and limited alternative employment opportunities. Despite often cited issues around vulnerability and feelings of exploitation, the described behaviour by workers suggests they do not necessarily acquiesce to forms of ‘normative’ and ‘computer’ control that are employed by the two investigated ‘gig’ platforms.