Quantity over quality? Care and labour relations of the platform-mediated care work in Hong Kong’s gig economy and welfare system

Tat Chor AU-YEUNG, Chris CHAN, Wing Yin Anna TSUI

Research output: Other Conference ContributionsPresentation


Informed by the literature on care work and labour process, this paper aims to explore how care and employment relations are shaped by the platform-mediated paid care work, drawing implications for labour and care policies. Care platforms refer to the digitised intermediaries matching paid care service requesters and providers via Apps or websites targeting private households. In this study, 36 in-depth interviews were conducted with care platform workers in Hong Kong. The findings reveal two sets of dilemmas regarding care and labour relations of the care platform work. First, workers’ experiences suggest that platforms and clients implemented a dual labour control but framed workers as independent contractors. While care platforms possessed employers’ power in managing and organising the work tasks, service users and purchasers as customers were also incorporated in the rating system to monitor workers’ performance. Apart from the lack of labour and social protection, workers were confronted by multi-facet precarity in terms of income, schedule, and health. One the one hand, business risks and costs were shifted to workers; on the other, clients shouldered the responsibilities of selecting and coordinating care services. Consequently, platforms could minimise operating costs and maximise profits through adopting digitised strategies of lean production.
The second dilemma lies in the extent to which quality of care was compatible with care platforms and the gig economy. While care workers were expected to perform trust-based assistance that required time to develop and improve, care platforms work put emphasis on customers’ flexibility and care workers’ replaceability. Using digital communication means, platforms could scale up the workforce, assign real-time service orders, accelerate the transaction of care services, and boost the availability of workers. Although care platforms attempted to maintain longer service contracts to stabilise revenues, platform work’s on-demand character displayed short-termism and patterns of perpetual trial and error for clients. Arguably, this fast approach to care put quantity over the quality for care services, and work precarity was translated into care precarity. Given the welfare system centred on community care and residual services, Hong Kong government’s neoliberal models of care and labour relations institutionalise the platformisation of care work, amplifying the power asymmetries between private care firms, workers, and clients. This research theoretically contributes to the digitised commodification of care work and empirically add to the literature from a non-Western context.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 5 Jul 2023
EventSocial Policy Association Annual Conference 2023: Rising inequalities and poverty: What role for Social Policy? - University of Nottingham, United Kingdom
Duration: 5 Jul 20237 Jul 2023


ConferenceSocial Policy Association Annual Conference 2023
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


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