Being exploited and breaching your visa: the limited choices of the food delivery worker

Some of the most vulnerable workers in the Australian labour market are squeezed between a rock and a hard place.

You can never do your homework, you are so tired and you just think about how to cook the next meal and sleeping, that is your life.

This international student, also works as a food delivery worker. He’s a gig worker, which means he uses an app to source his work. One of the reasons he does this is because of his visa restrictions.

He’s one of the 46 international students and working holiday worker visa holders we interviewed in our research, who were also working as food delivery workers.

The majority of these workers can’t earn enough money to live without working extra hours. They can’t work extra hours without breaching their visa.

So our research found some turn to gig work as it’s seen as a way around the current system. However, this choice leaves them exposed to the whims of digital platform companies that regularly reduce the terms and conditions of food-delivery work. Whether or not they feel exploited is irrelevant, because they have few other options. One said:

The worst element is just the earnings…[If I could] get paid $20 an hour or something, or – I’d be like, yeah, sweet…You can’t earn anything more than that, so… we lose, the benefit.

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Caleb Goods et al. – The Conversation – 21 Aug 2017