Labouring (on) the app: agency and organisation of work in the platform economy
Women have a long history of organising in the informal economy, despite facing several challenges around geographical dispersion, time poverty, and lack of recognition. These challenges persist in the platform economy which pose similar concerns around precarious irregular work. Recent literature has documented the adoption of traditional and novel strategies to resist platform exploitation, through algorithmic manipulation, public demonstrations and logout strikes, and legal action. This paper explores the gendered realities that shape workers’ organising strategies and demands. Using protests organised by women beauty workers in India as a case study, we discuss the factors underlying and leading to collectivisation. We find that women’s networks of information sharing and care are instrumental in navigating opaque and inefficient algorithms that fail to determine fully the organisation of work. We further examine the role of informal networks of information sharing in building workers’ identities which are instrumental in collective organising. Finally, we discuss the strategies and forms of organising adopted by women workers in this sector, which resonate with the rich history of organising in the informal economy.
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