Hunger for profit: how food delivery platforms manage couriers in China

Autores

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.1590/15174522-112308

Palavras-chave:

informal work, algorithmic management, emotional labor, food delivery workers, rural migrants, China

Resumo

How do food delivery platform firms, such as Meituan (operated by Tencent) and Ele.me (owned by Alibaba), manage couriers through service contracting rather than formal employment? How do couriers experience control and autonomy at work? Using observation and interviews, the author finds that a combination of data-driven surveillance systems and customer feedback mechanisms are incentivizing workers’ efforts. Corporate utilization of both manual and emotional labor is critical to realizing profits. Individual freedom is framed in a way that crowdsourced couriers are not required to work a minimum amount of time. Flexibility enabled by the algorithmic management, however, cuts both ways. When there is less demand, the platform corporations automatically reduce their dependence on labor. With variable food orders and piece rates, workers’ minimum earnings are not guaranteed. In the absence of Chinese legal protections over the fast-growing food delivery sector, informal workers are desperately struggling for livelihood.

Downloads

Não há dados estatísticos.

Biografia do Autor

Jenny Chan, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul

Assistant Professor of Sociology and China Studies in the Department of Applied Social Sciences at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

Referências

BARRATT, Tom; GOODS, Caleb; VEEN, Alex. “I’m my own boss. . .”: active intermediation and “entrepreneurial” worker agency in the Australian gig-economy. Environment and Planning A (EPA): Economy and Space, v. 52, n. 8, Online first, p. 1-19, 2020. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0308518X20914346

BRAVERMAN, Harry. Labor and monopoly capital: the degradation of work in the twentieth century. 25. ed. aniv. New York: Monthly Review Press, [1974] 1998.

BURAWOY, Michael. The politics of production: factory regimes under capitalism and socialism. London: Verso, 1985.

BURAWOY, Michael. Manufacturing consent: changes in the labor process under monopoly capitalism. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979.

CANT, Callum; MOGNO, Clara. Platform workers of the world, unite! The emergence of the Transnational Federation of Couriers. The South Atlantic Quarterly, v. 119, n. 2, p. 401-411, 2020. https://doi.org/10.1215/00382876-8177971

CHEN, Julie Y.; SUN, Ping. Temporal arbitrage, fragmented rush, and opportunistic behaviors: The labor politics of time in the platform economy. New Media & Society, v. 22, n. 9, Online first, p. 1-19, 2020. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F1461444820913567

FULLER, Linda; SMITH Vicki. Consumers’ reports: management by customers in a changing economy. Work, Employment & Society, v. 5, n. 1, p. 1-16, 1991. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0950017091005001002

GALLAGHER, Mary E. Can China achieve inclusive urbanization? In: FINGAR, Thomas; STANFORD, Jean C. Fateful decisions: Choices that will shape China’s future. Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 2020. p. 180-99.

GANDINI, Alessandro. Labour process theory and the gig economy. Human Relations, v. 72, n. 6, p. 1039-56, 2019. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0018726718790002

GRIESBACH, Kathleen; REICH, Adam; ELLIOT-NEGRI, Luke; MILKMAN, Ruth. Algorithmic control in platform food delivery work. Socius: Sociological Research for a Dynamic World, v. 5, p. 1-15, 2019. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F2378023119870041

HEEKS, Richard. Decent work and the digital gig economy: a developing country perspective on employment impacts and standards in online outsourcing, crowdwork, etc. Centre for Development Informatics, University of Manchester. Working Paper n. 71, 2017.

HOCHSCHILD, Arlie R. The managed heart: commercialization of human feeling. 20th Anniversary Edition. Berkeley: University of California Press, [1983] 2003.

IVANOVA, Mirela; BRONOWICKA, Joanna; KOCHER, Eva; DEGNER, Anne. 2018. The app as a boss? Control and autonomy in application-based management. Arbeit | Grenze | Fluss - Work in Progress interdisziplinärer Arbeitsforschung, n. 2, Frankfurt (Oder): Viadrina, doi:10.11584/Arbeit-Grenze-Fluss.2

LEE, Ching K. China’s Precariats. Globalizations, v. 16, n. 2, p. 137-154, 2019. https://doi.org/10.1080/14747731.2018.1479015

LEE, Min K.; KUSBIT, Daniel; METSKY, Evan; DABBISH, Laura. Working with machines: the impact of algorithmic, data-driven management on human workers. In: Annual ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, 33, Seul, 2015. Proceedings […]. New York: Association for Computing Machinery, 2015. p. 1603-1612. https://doi.org/10.1145/2702123.2702548

LEI, Ya-Wen. Delivering solidarity: Platform architecture and collective contention in China’s platform economy. American Sociological Review, v. 86, n. 2, p. 279-309, 2021. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0003122420979980

LEIDNER, Robin. Fast food, fast talk: Service work and the routinization of everyday life. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993.

LIU, Chuxuan; FRIEDMAN, Eli. Resistance under the radar: Organization of work and collective action in China’s food delivery industry. The China Journal, v. 86, n. 1, p. 68-89, 2021. https://doi.org/10.1086/714292

MILKMAN, Ruth; ELLIOTT-NEGRI, Luke; GRIESBACH, Kathleen; REICH, Adam. Gender, Class, and the gig economy: The case of platform-based food delivery. Critical Sociology, v. 47, n. 3, p. 357-72, 2021. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0896920520949631

MINISTRY OF HUMAN RESOURCES AND SOCIAL SECURITY, THE PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHINA et al. Guiding opinions on protecting workers’ labor security rights and interests in new forms of employment [In Chinese], n. 56. July, 2021. Available at: http://www.gov.cn/zhengce/zhengceku/2021-07/23/content_5626761.htm

ROSENBLAT, Alex; STARK, Luke. Algorithmic labor and information asymmetries: A case study of Uber’s drivers. International Journal of Communication, v. 10, p. 3758-84, 2016.

SCHOLZ, Trebor. Uberworked and underpaid: How workers are disrupting the digital economy. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2017.

SRNICEK, Nick. The challenges of platform capitalism: Understanding the logic of a new business model. Juncture, v. 23, n. 4, p. 254-57, 2017.

STATE INFORMATION CENTER (国家信息中心). China’s sharing economy development report 2020 (中国共享经济发展报告 2020). Beijing: State Information Center, 2020. Available at: https://www.shangyexinzhi.com/article/559828.html

STATE INFORMATION CENTER (国家信息中心). China’s sharing economy development report 2019 (中国共享经济发展报告 2019). Beijing: State Information Center, 2019. Available at: http://www.sic.gov.cn/archiver/SIC/UpFile/Files/Default/20190301115908284438.pdf

SUN, Ping. Your order, their labor: an exploration of algorithms and laboring on food delivery platforms in China. Chinese Journal of Communication, v. 12, n. 3, p. 308-323, 2019. https://doi.org/10.1080/17544750.2019.1583676

VEEN, Alex; BARRATT, Tom; GOODS, Caleb. Platform-capital’s “app-etite” for control: a labour process analysis of food-delivery work in Australia. Work, Employment and Society, v. 34, n. 3, p. 388-406, 2020. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0950017019836911

WANG, Zixu. In China, delivery workers struggle against a rigged system. SupChina, 20 Apr. 2021. Available at: https://supchina.com/2021/04/20/in-china-delivery-workers-struggle-against-a-rigged-system/

WHARTON, Amy S. The sociology of emotional labor. Annual Review of Sociology, v. 35, p. 147-165, 2009. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-soc-070308-115944

WOODCOCK, Jamie. The algorithmic panopticon at Deliveroo: Measurement, precarity, and the illusion of control. Ephemera: Theory & Politics in Organization, v. 30, n. 3, p. 67-95, 2020.

WOODCOCK, Jamie; JOHNSON, Mark R. Gamification: What it is, and how to fight it. The Sociological Review, v. 66, n. 3, p. 542-58, 2018. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0038026117728620

WU, Philip; ZHENG, Yingqin. Time is of the essence: spatiotemporalities of food delivery platform work in China. In: European Conference on Information Systems, 28, Marraquexe, 2020. Proceedings […]. Marrakesh: HEM, 2020. p. 1-15. Available at: https://aisel.aisnet.org/ecis2020_rp/156/

WU, Qingjun; ZHANG, Hao; LI, Zhen; LU, Kai. Labor control in the gig economy: evidence from Uber in China. Journal of Industrial Relations, v. 61, n. 4, p. 574-596, 2019. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0022185619854472

YANG, Yuan; MCMORROW, Ryan. Chinese courier sets fire to himself in protest over unpaid Alibaba wages. Financial Times, 12 Jan. 2021. Available at: https://www.ft.com/content/d6189ee8-9aea-41dd-a412-b8daba9cacf2

Downloads

Publicado

2021-08-18

Como Citar

CHAN, J. Hunger for profit: how food delivery platforms manage couriers in China. Sociologias, [S. l.], v. 23, n. 57, p. 58–82, 2021. DOI: 10.1590/15174522-112308. Disponível em: https://www.seer.ufrgs.br/index.php/sociologias/article/view/112308. Acesso em: 6 out. 2022.