Gig economy, austerity and “uberization” of labor in Brazil (2014 – 2019)

Please cite the paper as:
Guilherme Nunes Pires, (2019), Gig economy, austerity and “uberization” of labor in Brazil (2014 – 2019), World Economics Association (WEA) Conferences, No. 1 2019, Going Digital, 15th November to 20th December, 2019


The aim of the present paper is to understand the process of “Uberization” of labor in Brazil by analyzing the economic crisis and the austerity program from 2014. The emergence of Gig Economy and the “Uberization” of labor is a global trend in digital age. Brazil has experienced the exponential growth of these type of labor relations in the recent years. Millions of Brazilian workers now have their entire income exclusively from digital platforms without labor rights. However, its only possible to understand this phenomenon considering the economic crisis and the austerity program put in practice in 2014. The capital offensive over labor penalized the working class and provided the rapid growth of the “Uberization” of labor in Brazil.

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Recent comments



  • Grazia Ietto-Gillies says:

    The topic of this paper is of great relevance and interest. Digitalization is at the heart of the Uber business model.
    I want to make a few comments which, I hope, can be of use in further developing the paper.
    1. I am not sure that I agree with putting together the Gig economy with the Sharing Economy of Wikipedia (Fif 1). The Gig economy relates to new, for-profit business models by Uber, Amazon etc. Some sharing economy is also business related – i.e. for profit – such as bnb. However, Wikipedia activity is not for profit; it is more in the category of work done as a hobby; it does not result in income for the person who writes for Wikipedia; neither is the information service sold to the user. In this sense it does not have the exploitative elements of the Gig economy. For this reason I think it is better to keep it separate. You are dealing with problems of for-profit Gig economy.
    2. In the Gig economy the business strives to: (a) avoid responsibility for labour: it consider labour as self-employed not dependent; (b) avoid capital expenditure by requiring that the labourer supplies their own cars or vans etc. What the major company supplies is the technology and organization.
    3. It would be nice to have the first and second part of the paper more linked. In the second, macro part the role of the 2008 financial crisis could be further developed
    4. The Gig economy is more strongly linked to macro problems because the low incomes from the workers lead to low demand.
    5. Do you have data on trade union membership to support the claim of weakening of unions at p. 17?
    6. In Britain and I know in other countries – such as Italy – there has been great resistance to Uber. Only last week Transport for London has revoked the licence to Uber because of problems over passengers’ security and insurance. In too many instances it was found the driving person was different from the one authorized by Uber. As regards insurance it is the responsibility of the driver as he owns the car. But it turned out that many drivers were not insured. What is the situation in Brazil? Has there and is there resistance to the Uber business model? It would be interesting if you could provide a narrative with evidence on this point.
    All the best

  • Guilherme Nunes Pires says:

    Thank’s a lot for the comment, Grazia. As you could see, this is a very preliminary paper and your suggestions are of great value.
    Just some comments:
    1. I argued that the Online Gig economy is the intersection between Gig economy and Sharing economy and affirmed the non-profit character of the Sharing economy dimension.
    2. That’s my point, but I need to develop more.
    5. Yes, I have. I’ll develop this.
    6. Great point. Here, we had a strong resistance in the beggining in 2014, but now it seems that there isn’t.

    Thank you again.
    All the best

  • Bin Li says:

    The current crisis is kind of “innovative recession”, which will finally recover by income recycle. Gig economy means fragmentation or discreteness of economy, which saves workers from organizational powers. Working time is more flexible and comfortable than ever. Workers now start to think, to find, to study, to organize as a boss, hence it is not bad.

  • goingdigital2019 says:

    Dear Guilherme.

    Thanks for your interesting contribution about the uberization of labour in Brazil., Indeed, as you have pointed out, “this trend seems not to slow down but intensify’. I agree that tecnhological changes, austeriy programs and unemployment have certainly been key drivers.

    However. after reading your paper, I wonder which could be other drivers of this trend.

    My main question is:

    Do you think that the deep and recent changes in the Brazilian sociocultural relations that encompass the spheres of production and consumption also play a role?