[PRESS RELEASE] Women & Myth of Flexibility in Gig Economy | #DIFUSSION64

January 11, 2022 8:34 am || By

Google Meet, 25th November 2021 — Gig economy is a global phenomenon that is happening worldwide. Platforms promote time and space as the Flexibility of work though some surrounding issues are being questioned, especially related to gender norms and migrant status. For discussing problems that arise, CfDS collaborates with Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) on Difussion #64 with the theme ‘Women & Myth of Flexibility in Gig Economy’ by inviting Cosmin Popan as Leverhulme postdoctoral fellow Department of Sociology at MMU and Treviliana Eka Putri as Research Manager at CfDS and moderated by Kevin Wong as associate director in Criminal Justice Manchester at MMU.

The Intersectional Precarity of Gig Workers: The Case of Food Couriers

Based on research in the region of Europe especially England that Cosmin does, he states that the gig economy loads a link between cycling, work, and delivery. Bicycle is seen as an inclusive tool because anyone can ride it. Besides the excellent image of bicycles, the work platform also promotes flexible work by riding a bicycle. However, the promotions are obscuring and hiding from the precarity view associated with this kind of work. Cosmin continues that cycling has an ambiguous relationship with work and play until it is coopted in the gig economy era.

Even bicycle has different pattern nowadays, and it still has complex precarity. Cyclists have vulnerabilities on the road, like facing insecure roads, spatial disregard, and police neglect. On the other hand, gender and national membership contribute to what it means to be precarious in today’s job. The gender gap is shown when it comes to the majority of male workers who are doing deliveries. Moreover, women workers are still hiding in clothes to protect themselves from being recognized as a woman. There is a problem when exposing women that can lead to harassment so that they work with vigilance and tension. For migrant status, it is related to documented and undocumented for renting the app. Migrants’ voices are also challenging to hear because they would not speak the language, so they would not know their rights.

In closing his presentation, Cosmin states, “Minority of women and also the majority of migrants as food courier worker in the gig economy are hidden from view. Their position is indicative of additional discrimination that we have to be aware of when discussing the gig economy.”

The Myth of Flexibility: Gendered Experiences of Women Ojek Online Drivers in Indonesia

Conventional ojek drivers as an occupational job are dominated by males, which has existed for decades before 2000. The research done in 2020 with Trevi as one of the researchers concludes that there is no women driver in conventional ojek. However, women drivers have emerged since the ojek online (ojol) platforms have been created. Nevertheless,ride-hailers, as part of the gig economy, still have gender issues in Indonesia.

Grab as one ride-hailing platform is asking people through ads to join the platform by promoting flexibility. They promote that workers can gain income in flexible time by quickly registering as Grab’s driver. However, two structural factors that make flexibility cannot be experienced by everyone. These are supply-demand balance and gender norms.

Trevi continues that registering as a ride-hailer driver is not as easy as years before due to the supply-demand balance. After becoming a driver, workers cannot choose the job they want because of the algorithmic platform. The system is designed to make more job suggestions towards workers who are more often online. This has disadvantages for workers who cannot go online in a long hour like women. In this case, women have the double burden of domestic works aside from work. Respondents say that they want to do the jobs as male workers can do. However, they have to take care (feed up) of their kids and husband. Due to this condition, women workers are less online than male workers. This contributes to their level priorities in the platform as they will not get more orders than their male counterparts. Women drivers are also vulnerable to sexual harassment, which makes this more detrimental for women. It is essential to know that some women workers are breadwinners in their families.

To close her explanation, Trevi emphasizes, “Flexibility in the gig economy is very conditional because it is not that everyone can experience that. Supply-demand balance and gender norms are two structural factors that make people experience additional flexibility through different types of income dependency. For example, income-dependent women who are mostly single mothers or breadwinners of the family are also facing inflexibility due to societal gender norms and sexual harassment.”

In the end, Cosmin and Trevi agree that there is a contradiction to its flexibility in gig economy work, especially the ride-hailing industry. Statement of work promotion is questionable because there is a lack of transparency and understanding. The gig economy and its flexibility still leave long discussions related to employer and workers relations due to its imbalance, impacting the consequences and legal implications.

Author: Septiana Noor M
Editor: Firya Q. Abisono