Seeking justice beyond the platform economy: migrant workers navigating precarious lives
Abstract: Recent literature focuses on the inherent challenges of food delivery work. Less is known about how these injustices impact workers and their lives more broadly, or how workers navigate them. This empirical article is based on a 12-month ethnographic theory-relevant case study and includes an innovative shadowing method focused on migrant food delivery workers in Brisbane, Australia. We found that temporary migrant workers face intersectional injustices, exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis, both within and beyond the platform economy. Nevertheless, the workers agentically enacted their own justices to navigate their precarity, in the absence of institutional supports. This study’s theoretical contribution is the development of a model explaining the agentic and structural underpinnings of the injustices that migrant platform workers experience. Moreover, our contribution reveals that the unique attributes that migrants bring to bear on their platform work provide them with the affordances to navigate the injustices they experience. In so doing they mitigate some of the negative impacts of platform work, and indeed derive benefits that non-migrant platform workers might not.
Keywords: Workforce / gig economy / platforms / migrant workers / precarious work
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