Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2803

Article | Open Access

Unregulated Flexibility and the Multiplication of Labour: Work in the Chinese Platform Economy

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Abstract:  The global labour market is witnessing an increase in non‐standard employment, and China is no exception, albeit with distinct socio‐political dynamics. This research explores the variation of employment relations in China’s platform economy and discusses how the various types of precarious employment are generated and developed in post‐socialist China. Based on interviews with platform company managers and platform food delivery workers in China, this study draws a broader picture of platform work, considering the complex layers of labour practices at the level of platform companies and platform work. The research discusses the various labour arrangements in the ZZ food delivery platform and finds that variation serves to intensify and diversify managerial practices in platform work; at the same time, traditional types of work in platform companies are also undergoing transitions and the boundary between internal and external organisations is increasingly blurred and fluid. Labour relations in the platform economy are characterised by multiplication, and this multiplication is facilitated by the post‐socialist Chinese labour market’s general trend towards precariousness and the state’s tolerant approach to various non‐standard employment types in the era of “the new normal.”

Keywords:  China; labour relations; multiplication of labour; platform economy; platform work; precarious work



© Jing Wang, Quan Meng. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.