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Informed by the economic sociology of work, this qualitative study employs a dynamic and multi-dimensional notion of embeddedness to critique the social bases of gig work and the platform-mediated labour market, with a series of embedding, disembedding and re-embedding forces. Conducting in-depth interviews with 24 gig workers, the findings reveal how gig work is incorporated into Hong Kong’s labour market and the ways in which gig work is reshaping the power of workers via digital platforms. First, gig work is institutionally embedded in a policy framework centred on weak regulation and protection, resulting in platforms’ expandable and retractable control over labour. Second, gig work is embedded in occupational norms and professional practices, in which workers practise multi-platforming and marketplace resistance when defending their interests. Finally, the embedded connectivity of gig work boosts the scalability of labour market competition but engenders algorithmic opacity. The marketplace bargaining power of gig workers is twofold: workers’ dependence on platforms and their working status. Hence, the embeddedness of gig work and platforms is far from stable but involves new tensions that challenge the gigification and platformisation of work.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The authors are grateful to the gig workers participated in this research. Thanks also go to the Centre for Social Innovation Studies at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship and/or publication of this article: This research work was partially supported by grants from the Hong Kong Research Grant Council (Early Career Scheme: 23601021) and British Council.
© The Author(s) 2022.
- gig economy
- platform workers
- digital technology
- economic sociology of work
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