Trapped in the platform: Migration and precarity in China's platform-based gig economy

Yang ZHOU*

*Corresponding author for this work

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

14 Citations (Scopus)


Recent studies on precarity among gig workers has turned away from labour process factors to explore the role of the wider social, cultural and institutional environment. Existing western-centred studies in this aspect argue that platforms reproduce racialised and gendered hierarchies to leverage control over vulnerable populations. This study extends this literature by focusing on the migration factor in a non-western context. Using the case of Didi, drawing on ethnographic and interview data, it is argued that migrant drivers’ high tolerance for platform precarity should be understood as an imposed position, for they are actually trapped in the platform by China's state-led, tech-driven economic restructuring project, through a new mode of migrant labour differentiation comprising three factors – changes in the labour market, hegemonic gender norms and the reformed hukou system. It thus enriches our understanding of worker precarity in the gig economy by highlighting the impact of migration and the state.
Original languageEnglish
Article number0308518X2211191
JournalEnvironment and Planning A
Early online date22 Aug 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 22 Aug 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2022.


  • Hukou
  • gig economy
  • precarity
  • gender
  • China
  • migration


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