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Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Negotiating Dependencies and Precarity in the On-Demand Economy

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  • Srihari Hulikal Muralidhar, Microsoft Africa Research Institute
  • ,
  • Claus Bossen
  • Jacki O’Neill, Aarhus Universitet, Microsoft Africa Research Institute

There is growing evidence of ride-hailing platforms’ adverse impact on drivers. Nonetheless, hundreds of thousands of drivers continue to work on these platforms. Why? The key contribution of this paper is to show that workers in technology-mediated labour markets come to be increasingly dependent on the technology-provider in order to connect with the customers. As more and more customers choose to get various tasks done via intermediary platforms, for workers who perform such tasks for a living, this translates into growing dependencies on these infrastructuralized platforms for their livelihoods and thus increased vulnerabilities to the impact of platform design and policies. These ‘new dependencies’, therefore, make it critical for us not to conflate workers’ continued use of platforms with their experiencing benefits. By drawing upon a qualitative study with auto-rickshaw drivers using Ola, a ride-hailing platform similar to Uber in India, the paper shows that a consequence of ‘new dependencies’ for drivers is that they are stuck ‘between a rock and a hard place’ whereby: a) on the one hand, the platform design heightens their precarity, provides them with little benefit, and often leads to tensions with customers, b) on the other, a shift of more and more customers from street-hailing to app-based hailing over time exacerbates dependencies for drivers on these very platforms, leaving them with little choice but to continue to use them for work.

TidsskriftComputer Supported Cooperative Work: CSCW: An International Journal
Sider (fra-til)443-486
Antal sider44
StatusUdgivet - sep. 2022

Bibliografisk note

Funding Information:
We would like to thank Peace Auto for helping us connect to the auto-rickshaw drivers and providing office space to conduct interviews in Bengaluru. Most importantly, we would like to thank all the auto-rickshaw drivers from Mysuru and Bengaluru who generously shared with us their time, insights and experiences. Last but not the least, we would like to convey our thanks to the editors and reviewers for meticulously going through multiple versions of this paper and providing detailed, constructive comments which have considerably strengthened its quality.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature B.V.

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