PRIN MiDi Work

Migrant Digital work (MiDi Work) is a research project that aims to explore migrant labour within the gig economy, through an approach that combines fresh case studies, interdisciplinary cross-fertilization and comparison between regional and national contexts. Focusing on low-wage services and sectors – such as agriculture; food delivery; domestic work; and handiwork – the main aim of the project is to understand how migrants take up platform labour and how they incorporate it into their everyday working lives and migration trajectories. More specifically, MiDi Work will look at the intermediary role played by platforms to understand whether the platformisation can: 1) influence work dimensions and labour practices; 2) contribute to the creation of digital gangmasters; 3) affect incoming migrant trajectories; 4) condition the intimate sphere and daily lives of workers; 5) encourage or deter agency of workers; and 6) foster or dissuade collective action to demand better working conditions.

Earlier works show how gig platforms are becoming crucial in the political economy of migration as they mediate migrant mobility and engage low-wage labour markets that are often occupied by migrants. In this respect, the project offers a crucial insight into the positioning of migrant workers within the platformisation of work, which is still overlooked.

MiDi Work is composed of four research units (RUs) that will explore four sectors of employment: UNIME: agricultural sector platforms and the work of migrant farmworkers; UNIVE: food delivery platforms and the work of migrant riders and runners/walkers in Venice; UNIMI: domestic sector platforms and the work of migrant cleaners in Milan; and UNIMIB: housework platforms and the work of migrant taskers in Milan.

The team fosters a comparative attitude between the different contexts, providing a territorial analysis of platforms and their use in Italy. The team also shares an intersectional approach, which explores the production of inequalities at the intersection of power relations based on sex, nationality, class, age, sexuality, religion, and migration trajectories. From a methodological point of view, the project employs qualitative methods based on: digital ethnography within social networks, chat groups of labourers and apps used by migrant gig workers; semi-structured interviews with key informants such as recruiters and managers; and in-depth interviews with migrant gig workers. In addition, the project will also make extensive use of techniques such as participant observation, informal conversations, shadowing, street-level ethnography. By adopting an interdisciplinary perspective, MiDi Work fosters dialogue between Sociology and Anthropology.