The gig economy, platform work, and social policy: food delivery workers’ occupational welfare dilemma in Hong Kong

Tat Chor AU YEUNG*, Chris King-Chi CHAN, Cham Kit MING, Wing Yin Anna TSUI

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

Abstract

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.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Social Policy
Early online date4 Jan 2024
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 4 Jan 2024

Bibliographical note

Special thanks go to the platform workers who spent their invaluable time on this research.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s), 2024. Published by Cambridge University Press.

Keywords

  • gig economy
  • platform work
  • self-employment
  • occupational welfare
  • digital technology
  • labour protection

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