Platformization and Informality: Pathways of Change, Alteration, and Transformation

Aditi Surie, Ursula Huws | 2023


The Global South has become a hotbed for investment and experimentation for technology companies. Labour platforms like Uber, GoJek, Didi, and Amazon Mechanical Turk act as significant players in creating the future of work for workers. The ‘emerging markets’ of the Global South are seen as good, viable opportunities for investors and entrepreneurs to experiment with new platform models, in economies that have been defined by informality. In the Global North, precarity and casualization have been a defining feature of the effect of labour platforms on workers.

There has in general been a failure, on the part of scholars and politicians, to look beneath the superficial similarities between the forms of precarization newly arriving in the Global North and those that are a long-established feature of labour markets in the Global South. What does the experience of precarity mean for a worker brought up in the expectation of a secure, permanent job, with a defined occupational identity, guaranteed benefits and the prospect of a pension at the end of working life? And how does this compare with the experience of a worker from a household in which informal work is the norm, embedded in a community where most other workers are also informally employed, shaped by long-established cultural traditions and social practices? This chapter introduces the questions that this book seeks to answer and the chapters that take these questions head on.