Previous literature suggests that the gig economy and platform work pose challenges to social policy, including the welfare entitlement issues caused by workers’ ambiguous occupational status. Focusing on the government’s regulatory role, this study investigates platform workers’ occupational welfare (OW) by conducting in-depth interviews with forty-six food delivery workers in Hong Kong. The evidence reveals workers’ occupational risks resulting from platforms’ algorithmic devices and the misclassification of independent contractors. The denied access to private occupational pensions was considered acceptable by workers because of the perceived irrelevance of OW. While interviewees emphasised time-based flexibility as a key intangible benefit, the shifting business costs to self-employed workers was highlighted as a disadvantage. A policy dilemma appears between strengthening state regulation/protection and maintaining workers’ temporal autonomy. Arguably, the platformisation of work is translated into the gigification of OW, disentitling platform workers’ employer-provided welfare and labour protection. Platforms possess monopolising power over workers, the state displays weak regulatory power to monitor platforms, and workers’ occupational citizenship is undermined by the government’s minimal intervention. This study contributes to the literature by linking OW to platform work and revealing how the gig economy reshapes social policy, empirically offering a worker-centred analysis of OW in Hong Kong.
Bibliographical noteSpecial thanks go to the platform workers who spent their invaluable time on this research.
© The Author(s), 2024. Published by Cambridge University Press.
- gig economy
- platform work
- occupational welfare
- digital technology
- labour protection