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PLATFORM PATHWAYS: Exploring migrant pathways in platform work in Canada

Food courier riding a bike with a delivery bag on their back

The project seeks to understand the work conditions and decision-making processes of migrant workers who are engaged in platform-based work (such as Uber, Lyft or Taskrabbit), with a deeper dive into those in digital care and domestic work platforms. We explore how platform work impacts the labour market integration process for migrants, whether migrants find opportunities for success within this employment structure, or if platform work emerges as a trap to their overall immigration and settlement experience. We also explore how quality of work is interpreted and understood by platform workers. Additionally, we focus on the gendered dimension of platform work as migrant men and women engage in different types of platform-based employment. 

  1. How do migrants leverage platform work as a means to navigate the Canadian labour market?
  2. How does platform work impact migrants’ future employment pathways?
  3. How do skilled migration regimes intersect with such new forms of organizing labour relations?

In recent years, various forms of short-term contract and freelance work (commonly referred to as “gig” work for its precarious quality) and specifically gig work based on digital platforms are becoming increasingly prevalent. To that end, researchers, practitioners, policy-makers and workers have adopted diverse approaches and perspectives in studying how platform work impacts working conditions and communities. Yet little is known about the demographics of workers in the gig economy and more specifically, the platform economy. In Canada, administrative data indicates that that the proportion of gig workers who are migrants, especially recent migrants, is considerably higher than Canadian-born populations.

Emerging research has shown the dangers and precarity faced by platform workers. Our work investigates the connection between the labour market barriers experienced by migrants in Canada and their entry and pathways into platform work. We question the nuances of platform work as experienced by migrants, including the ways in which it can become a stepping stone or a trap. We adopt a life course perspective to investigate how employment in the gig economy is shaped by, and shapes, the migrants’ longer-term labour market integration.

The study uses qualitative, semi-structured, in-depth interviews, with a view of understanding the lives and experiences, thoughts and emotions of newcomer migrant workers who find employment in the platform economy. This approach allows us to be iterative and engage with the participants’ data.

Lam, L., & Triandafyllidou, A. (Nov. 30, 2022) Gig platforms help immigrant care workers find jobs, but they are only a temporary solution., external link, opens in new window  The Conversation.

Lam, L., & Triandafyllidou, A. (May 17, 2022) Road to nowhere or to somewhere? Migrant pathways in platform work in Canada, external link. Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space. 1-20. 

Lam, L. (Sept. 27, 2021) How should Canada design policies to protect gig workers?, external link, opens in new window Policy Options

Lam, L. (Jun. 10, 2021) Navigating Precarity in Non-standard Work, external link, opens in new window Public Policy Forum

Lam, L., & Triandafyllidou, A. (Mar. 1, 2021). An unlikely stepping stone? Exploring how platform work shapes newcomer migrant integration, external link, opens in new windowTransitions: Journal of Transient Migration5(1), 11-29.

Triandafyllidou, A., & Lam, L. (2021, March 2). British Uber driver win is promising, but gig workers still need basic rights, external link, opens in new window. The Conversation.  

Lam, L. (2020). Have Platforms Become Part of the Immigration Experience?, external link Platform Labor. 

Lam, L. (2020). Surviving, but not thriving? Lives of immigrants in the platform economy. (Major Research Paper).

Conferences and presentations:

Wageindicator Foundation: Migration and Telemigration in the Gig Economy, external link, opens in new window  Keynote, Sept. 24, 2021

Brave New Work 2021 Conference: Navigating Precarity in Non-standard Work, external link, opens in new window  June 2021

The Platform Economy: Racialized and Gendered? 23rd Metropolis Canada Conference. Migrants, Migration and Mobility: COVID-19 Response and Recovery. March 2021.

The Platform Economy: Racialized and Gendered?, external link Migration and the Future of Work. Canada Excellence Research Chair in Migration and Integration, Ryerson University. Feb 2021. 

Surviving, but not thriving? Lives of immigrants in the platform economy. New Voices in Work & Labour Studies, Global Labour Research Centre, York University. October 2020.

Surviving, but not thriving? Lives of immigrants in the platform economy. Migration Working Group, Toronto Metropolitan University (formerly Ryerson University), Toronto, May 27, 2020

Current project: comparative analysis of relational and non-relational platform work; Spring 2023

Upcoming project: Quality of work in the gig economy; starting Winter 2023

Partnership for Change: The RBC Immigrant, Diversity and Inclusion Project (2019-2020)

CERC Migration

Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council

platform work, motivations, labour market integration, precarity