Fragmentation of employment relationships, fragmentation of working time: the nature of work and employment of platform takeaway riders and implications for decent work in China

Xiliang Feng, Fang Lee Cooke and Chenhui Zhao (2024), Asia Pacific Journal of Human Resources

This paper critically examines the notion of working time flexibility of platform takeaway riders and its impact on them in China. Drawing on 25 interviews with platform and takeaway delivery company managers and takeaway riders as well as secondary data, the study finds that the management model adopted by the platform companies and their agency companies often encourages riders to extend their working hours by being designed into the rider’s earning system, status level and various incentive schemes. Driven by profits, takeaway delivery platform companies pursue speed and impose harsh punishments for poor customer reviews. Severe competition and the platforms’ aggressive pricing and commissioning practices mean that takeaway riders’ remuneration is tightly squeezed, with no subsidies or overtime payment, and with rules for bonuses that make it increasingly difficult to earn. Working excessively long and intense hours is the only way that riders can increase their income, which suggests that rider-oriented working time flexibility is virtually non-existent. We propose the notion of fragmented employment relationships and fragmented working time to conceptualise working time flexibility in the takeaway delivery context in China. We accentuate the need to examine the quality of working time flexibility when examining this practice. We call for state interventions to provide a greater level of social protection than the takeaway riders are currently experiencing to advance the decent work agenda as part of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Share this: