Uber and employment in the Global South–not-so-decent work

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8 Citations (Scopus)


Due to its global standards and brand recognition, Uber has become an important form of transportation and is now found throughout the world. It has played a role in transforming local mobilities in many cities, particularly those lacking efficient public transportation options. Uber has played a particularly important role in increasing mobilities in places with security concerns, such as South Africa, due to their competitive rates, the accountability of drivers, and their innovative security features. Uber promotes itself as a peer-to-peer platform that connects drivers to riders, calling drivers ‘partners’, and vehemently dismissing any claims that it is an employer. The company advocates the ability of Uber to increase economic upliftment, particularly in the Global South. South Africa has staggering urban un-and-underemployment rates and, therefore, Uber can be seen as a potential tool for job creation or a means of supplementing low and inconsistent wages. A critical analysis of these claims demonstrates the manner in which Uber has emerged as an employment mechanism in South Africa within a ‘decent work’ framework. The findings are based on an analysis of detailed questionnaires distributed to Uber drivers based in South Africa as well as ethnographic research. It also draws on secondary sources, such as driver forums, newspaper articles and the Uber South Africa website. The findings demonstrate the many challenges faced by Uber drivers such as long working hours, low fares, subcontracting of drivers and concerns over driver safety. The paper introduces primary research in the form of driver surveys and questions the discourse propagated by the company as a mechanism for economic upliftment. In particular, the results show that working for Uber, according to these results, should not be considered decent work.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1022-1039
Number of pages18
JournalTourism Geographies
Issue number6-7
Publication statusPublished - 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Platform economy
  • South Africa
  • Uber
  • decent work
  • employment
  • ridesharing
  • sharing economy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management


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