Online food delivery platforms attract workers by promoting benefits such as flexibility and the opportunity to “be your own boss.” However, flexibility for platform workers is conditional due to status as independent contractors and limited by indirect controls through processes such as algorithmic management. Migrant workers – who conduct the majority of food delivery – face additional challenges due to unfamiliarity with local systems, reduced social capital, limited support networks, low levels of English, and no access to government assistance or welfare. This study aimed to understand and present the day-to-day experiences of migrants who conduct platform-based food delivery. The author is undertaking an ethnography in Brisbane (Australia) which utilises methods of participant-observation, shadowing (by bicycle, e-bike, & car), and semi-structured interviews. Research is ongoing and this working paper is based on the first 10 months of fieldwork. Preliminary findings suggest that food delivery workers are mistreated, excluded, and controlled in various ways. Migrant workers are further isolated due to the mobile, decentralised, and independent nature of ‘gig’ work, as well as ongoing impacts of COVID-19. However, in the absence of institutional support, migrant food delivery workers have developed ‘tricks’ and tactics which they deploy as acts of individual and collective resistance. This research is important as it underlines the agency of migrant workers and the ways in which they create elaborate support networks to improve their circumstances. Further, this working paper demonstrates how migrant workers attempt to redress power imbalances by circumventing processes of control in digitalised work contexts. 

About the Presenter

Tyler is a PhD Candidate (Hospitality & Anthropology) and Casual Academic at UQ. Tyler is the Chairperson of the Australian Network of Student Anthropologists (ANSA). His PhD investigates experiences of migrants who work in platform-based food-delivery. Through his ethnography on migrant labour in the ‘gig’ economy, Tyler hopes to further understand the concepts of social hospitality, virtual hospitality, and hospitableness. Tyler’s broader research interests include the ways in which disadvantaged communities use agency to navigate training and employment programs in hospitality. Tyler holds a Bachelor of Arts with Honours Class I (Anthropology), and a Diploma in Languages (Spanish). Tyler has eight years’ experience in the hospitality industry and a professional background working on education and development programs with disadvantaged communities in Australia and Latin America.

About Anthropology Working Papers

The Working Papers in Anthropology seminar series provides a forum for dissemination of anthropological research and ideas among UQ scholars and invited researchers. All students are invited to attend the series and postgraduate students, from honours upwards, are invited to present their research. The aim is to provide opportunities for students, staff and those from outside UQ, to present and discuss their work in an informal environment.


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