Mobile Livelihoods

Mobile Livelihoods

Many people worldwide rely on mobility for their livelihood: drivers, delivery workers, street vendors, maintenance technicians of long-distance operation systems, children who live on the street, and so many more. Mobility, in effect, is their main means of work — and survival. Those who rely on mobility either facilitate the movement of others (e.g. drivers) or move on others’ behalf (e.g. delivery riders). Admittedly one of the most “traditional” lifestyles, mobile livelihoods today are increasingly mediated through large digital platforms. Can mobility be conceptualized as a form of labour? How can its value be measured?


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Shibazono Danchi is a public housing complex that was built in Tokyo in 1978. Serving as a temporary residence, it has become part of the “migration infrastructure” that transnationally and regionally facilitates Chinese IT workers’ mobility. Despite their concentration, with extremely mobile livelihoods, these workers don’t form a strong migrant network in Shibazono Danchi. — Tetsuya Imaoka
Relaxed labour laws in Germany has led logistics companies (such as Amazon) to work with private employment agencies to mobilise asylum seekers to work in warehouses as pickers and packers. The pandemic only accelerated the growth of the logistics sector, with the growth in e-commerce. However, the intense demand of the jobs available negatively impacts asylum seekers’ social mobility. — Žiga Podgornik Jakil
International student workers’ plights in Australia and Aotearoa-New Zealand during the COVID-19 pandemic raise questions regarding the rights of students as a special group of mobile workers, and future student mobility to the region. — Vidya Ramachandran
Declining numbers of ‘working holidaymakers’ in Australia and Aotearoa-New Zealand during the COVID-19 pandemic have produced a labour deficit in select industries. Those who have remained in both countries throughout the pandemic have experienced an increase in demand. — Vidya Ramachandran
Amazon’s warehouse and delivery workers became an essential and rapidly expanding workforce in the United States during the pandemic. Amongst various categories of workers, protest and legal mobilization arose as part of a movement to protect Amazon employees in the mobile sector, even while so much else of the country was in lockdown. — Danielle Douglas
The government of Jordan provided some emergency assistance to migrant workers during the pandemic, but migrants’ lack of formal employment impeded the implementation. — Shaddin Almasri
After the start of the pandemic in March 2020, workers in the United States who continued to go into work – delivery workers, warehouse workers, farmworkers, healthcare professionals, and others who are not frequently in the limelight of the media – became known as “essential” and “frontline”. This entry depicts the way in which, between March and November 2020, such workers shifted in the public eye from an “invisible” class to a class resembling national “heroes”, but without all the crucial corresponding rights, livelihoods, and safety protections. — Danielle Douglas
Migrant farmworkers in the United States were deemed essential during the COVID-19 pandemic, meaning that they would continue to work in spite of outbreak. However, these internationally and seasonally mobile workers were disproportionately at risk, and often not given adequate protections. — Danielle Douglas
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