This research provides fresh insights into a question on the future of work with significant implications for research and policy worldwide: how do digital platform-mediated service provisioning restructure employment relations, working conditions, and the workplace in small and ‘overlooked’ cities? Platform/gig work refers to short-term and temporary labour activities coordinated by digital platforms with no formal contracting between service providers and clients. Platform/gig work includes app-based ride-hailing, courier, and care services as well as online microtasks. In the last decade, platform work has skyrocketed in cities in the global ‘South’. Policymakers now argue that the expanding platform/gig economy will absorb surplus labour creating new employment opportunities for the youth and alleviating poverty in the global ‘South’. Yet, research shows that gig work is rife with the potential to reproduce inequality as the youth in the global ‘South’ have limited and differential access to platform work. Furthermore, platform work has reproduced precarious working conditions due to lack of formal contracts between service providers (workers) and clients. However, much of the research on gig work in the global ‘South’ consistently focus on large cities and tends to homogenize the lived experiences of gig workers. There is a lack of attention on the penetration and impact of the gig economy in small and overlooked cities in the global ‘South’.

This research contributes to this gap in research by drawing on a grounded analysis of gig workers’lived experiences in two small cities in India – Dehradun and Darjeeling. This research has significant empirical, theoretical, and policy implications. Empirically and theoretically, this research will document the penetration of the platform economy in small towns in India and contribute to informing debates on the equalizing capacity of platform work that supposedly transcends spatial barriers. Moreover, this research extends theoretical debates regarding the importance of place, power, and localisms within the platform economy by seeing from the small and ‘overlooked’ cities in the Himalayan regions in India. By acknowledging the voices of gig workers in overlooked cities in the global ‘South’, this research also has policy implications for rethinking what decent work really means in the context of longstanding unemployment and development crises in overlooked cities.

Working Papers

Bose, D. 2023. Bonded Flexibility: Everyday Politics of App-based Platform Workers in Small Towns in India

Bose, D. 2023. Platform Labor and the Future of Global Urbanisms

Cieslik, K. and Bose, D. 2023. The Global Meritocracy Mirage: Regimes of Inequality in Digital Labor

Social Science Research for the 21st Century - Progress through Partnership

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