Close this search box.

Gamified Lives in the Gig Economy

Solidarity in Action: Grab Riders demonstrate support for suspended colleagues who protested fare adjustments in October 2023. Photo credit: Mayday Multimedia.

Casting a critical eye on the much-touted gig economy and its realities of precarious labor, this analysis unpacks the film “On Our Own Time” by Kat Catalan. The piece pulls back the curtain on the gamified struggles of app-based workers like delivery riders, whose lives are governed by the whims of profit-driven tech platforms that lack adequate safeguards. It spotlights the stark contrast between the narrative of flexibility and resourcefulness pushed by gig economy giants and the exploitation, risks, and lack of protections that underpin this workforce model. Giving voice to these workers’ plight, the analysis calls for accountability and better labour standards amid the rapid rise of the gig economy.

This post is part of a series of issue analyses for the Tech Tales Youth film collection. Read the rest of the series here.


On Our Own Time questions the gig economy narrative and explores the realities of precarious app-based work by following the day-to-day lives of three delivery riders. In the film, audiences see how these workers’ lives are seemingly gamified, as they risk life and limb to earn a living while their means of earning is at the mercy of companies raking in profits from exploitative working conditions.

Unlike typical jobs, workers in the gig economy are paid per task rather than hourly or monthly wages. However, its promise of flexibility and the efficiency of matching workers with clients through a digital platform has contributed to its popularity worldwide. In the Philippines, control over working hours and earnings above the transportation industry mean were cited as the main benefits, according to an ADB study of delivery riders. App-based work has especially helped cushion the impact of economic shocks during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly for those laid off from formal employment.

However, the framing of platform-based workers as independent and resourceful contractors controlling their own time and earnings obscures the risks. Without employer-employee arrangements, the gig economy also does away with many labour safeguards affecting nearly half a million Filipino riders and drivers.

Because they are not considered employees, riders and drivers shoulder the costs for fuel, vehicle repairs, and communications costs for using digital booking platforms. This can cut into their earnings, which vary because of the precarious nature of task-based work and competition with other apps and drivers. The film highlights several other issues: technical glitches that affect riders’ ability to secure bookings, physical exhaustion and unhealthy working conditions, the lack of safety nets in case of accidents, and a rating system that lacks transparency and fairness. One bad review or a single mistake can mean loss of work, without adequate means to contest complaints. Workers bear these costs and risks, even as the businesses that operate these platforms rake in high profits: the ride-hailing and taxi sector recorded $625 million in revenue in 2020, while food delivery sales reached $1.2 billion.

A 2022 report by Fairwork Philippines found that the majority of gig economy platforms do not meet basic standards of fairness. It urged authorities and tech platforms to work towards stronger labour protections. Platform workers themselves have also sought to band together to help each other, staging events and protests to call for better working conditions. But challenges persist in their attempts at labour organising, as they not only face systemic barriers skewed against them and the diskarte (resourcefulness) narrative associated with the gig economy, but also the economic reality of having to depend on precarious work.

Watch the film