Mobile Work

Mobile Work

Mobility has historically been a means of work for many: herders, drivers, vendors, beggars. Today’s digital platforms like delivery and e-haling taxi businesses have turned mobility itself into a precisely measured task and a tradeable commodity. Through such platforms, one can buy a piece of mobility service—or “outsourced” mobilities—for the sake of safety, convenience or efficiency. And one can sell one’s mobile labour, measured by time and distance. What are the relations between capital, labour, technology, regulation and public perception in these new mobile forms of work?


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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
Mobility businesses sell customers the service of having someone else move on the customers’ behalf. Expanding rapidly, the business has far-reaching economic and social implications. — Biao Xiang
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
Testimonies of gig economy workers during the pandemic in Germany show that lockdowns have altered labour options, creating and consolidating new patterns of mobility and immobility. — Moritz Altenried, Manuela Bojadživev & Mira Wallis
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
This entry sheds light on the different forms of mobility businesses that emerged in South Africa, and how online ride-hailing firms expanded their businesses by collaborating with companies to transport employees and deliver goods during the COVID-19 lockdown in 2020. — Mengnjo Tardzenyuy Thomas
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
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the government of the Canary Islands has implemented a strategy based on advertisement, economic diplomacy, and public health security to sustain tourist mobility, a vital element of the Islands’ economy. — Lore Purroy
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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