Uber, employment and social justice: The South African experience

Authors: Julia Giddy*, University of Johannesburg
Topics: Tourism Geography, Cyberinfrastructure, Urban Geography
Keywords: Uber, urban mobilities, ride-sharing, social justice, South Africa, employment
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/3/2019
Start / End Time: 12:40 PM / 2:20 PM
Room: Hoover, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Uber, a global transportation application, has played an important role in transforming local mobilities, particularly in places with security concerns, such as South Africa, due to their global standards, competitive rates, the accountability of drivers, and their innovative security features. Uber promotes itself as a “peer-to-peer” (P2P) platform that connects drivers to riders, calling drivers “partners” and dismissing any claims that it is an employer. It advocates the ability of Uber to increase economic upliftment, particularly in developing countries. South Africa has staggering urban un-and-underemployment rates and, therefore, Uber can be seen as a potential tool for job creation. This paper seeks to delve into these claims by demonstrating the way in which Uber has emerged as an employment mechanism in South Africa. It asses the role of Uber in the social justice movement, with a focus on the discourse propagated by Uber as a tool for economic upliftment. It highlights the employment characteristics of Uber in South Africa, from the perspectives of Uber drivers. The paper focuses on the challenges faced by Uber drivers such as long working hours, low fares, subcontracting of drivers and concerns over driver safety. The paper draws on secondary sources such as the Uber South Africa website, news articles and blogs. It also introduces primary research in the form of driver surveys and ethnographic research. The dynamics highlighted here are then contextualized in the broader discussions of Uber, digital technologies in travel and tourism as well as social justice in South Africa

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