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Daily Digest | Sprinting against algorithms

Written by The Uptake Published on     2 mins read

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Gig workers in China constantly draw the short straw. Conditions are improving ever so slightly.

Hey there. It’s Brady.

During a visit to Guangzhou some years ago, on a trip to meet a friend while her sister took the final steps to adopt an infant, we stayed in an Airbnb that was located in a sprawling apartment complex.

To reach the flat we were lodging in, we had to take an elevator, walk through a courtyard that was 20 stories or so above ground, then take a second elevator to go up another eight floors.

The point here is these flats were not easy to reach. Every evening, when we walked into the lobby, there would be food delivery guys on their phones, asking whether it would be alright for the people on the other end of the line to come down and pick up their meals.

This typically ended with the elevators packed with men in yellow and blue jackets, all of them dashing across the courtyard to their next lift because they were burning time.

I think about this once in a while because the encounters from that stay tell you a few things about this line of business—many people ordered in multiple nights a week, especially for middle class households; delivery workers had to race against inhuman evaluation systems; margins were (and still are) razor thin.

And, of course, if a meal showed up a few minutes later than expected, it was the guys who were hauling sacks of food across town for close to no pay that got chewed out, as I overheard multiple times.

Things are changing ever so slightly. Rules that govern this space have been enacted, but more needs to be done to make it reasonable and sustainable. Jiaxing wrote about this. You can read her article here.

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