CE41 - Inégalités, discriminations, migrations

Grey zones and Territories: transformation of work and the emerging figure of Platform Worker. A France-Brazil comparison – REGREYZandCo

Submission summary

This project pursues themes developed by researchers with extensive experience collaborating in research projects. Through the prism of a circumscribed empirical object in the two national contexts – ride-sharing drivers and delivery workers whose work is intermediated by digital platforms, their working and living conditions and their inscription in the local territory– we question the classical forms of precariousness and informality. We interrogate the regulation of this emerging labour market figure, by mobilising the heuristic approach of grey zones, which refer to alternative regulatory dynamics which are more or less stable, more or less structuring, and whose duration and scope are unknown a priori. This indetermination is at the source of institutionalisation of new norms and explains why it needs to be understood as a complex and uncertain process. Our research focuses on the halo of forms of work, norms and practices regarding this moving empirical object operating in contrasting socio-political contexts. These dynamics shed light on the transformations of work, in their different articulations with social policies and regulatory institutions in relation to workers' practices and struggles. Through this methodological approach, we will reveal the transversal similarities/comparativeness of these processes by looking at working conditions linked to platform work but also to poly-activity for some. To enhance this hypothesis, we will also take into account the living conditions (housing, mobility, etc.) of these workers, without losing sight of the context in which they carry out their activities, but also how this helps to structure the urban circuits they navigate in. Thus, in this broader space, examining the action of stakeholders (institutions, organisations, trade unions, associations, cooperatives, lawyers, experts, academics, etc.), is a central axis of Regreyz&Co insofar as it reflects the dynamics and speed of transformations, especially in the current times of the Covid health crisis. These ramifications of the central object of critical consideration reveal the permanent negotiations around the shifting boundaries of these different categories of action. They are linked by the transformations of representations and work statuses as through practices and struggles. This methodology is based on a socio-historical approach insofar as it sets out the elements of the Brazilian and French contexts and goes further to consider contemporary developments that have a direct impact on work and whose appearance could not be foreseen (in particular, the place that platforms would occupy in the time of Covid-19) at the beginning of 2020. The changing logic of labour legislation in both national contexts were the culmination of trends rooted back to the 1980s - the El Khomri (2016) and urban mobility regulation laws and the Macron ordinances (2017) in France; the labour market reform in Brazil (2017). The consequences on the labour market of these reforms are linked to public decision-makers’ positioning in favour of opening up these new transport sectors in line with the conception of them promoted by the platforms in Brazil and France. The state thereby participates in the production of a grey zone that accelerates the deconstruction of the welfare state, to the point of finding itself, at times, overtaken by the processes underway. The study of the actors of resistance and renewal, around the borders of disputed rights but also in their displacement towards new spaces where the ascendancy of emerging figures is played out, makes it possible to draw a portrait that is both holistic and dynamic of the recodification of work and the grey zones that accompany it. This implies the need to identify new conceptual and comparative typological categories that also highlight the phenomena that escape them which in turn contribute to the constitution of potentially perennial grey zones.

Project coordination

Christian AZAIS (Laboratoire interdisciplinaire pour la sociologie économique)

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


SAGEMM Universidade de São Paulo (USP) / Social activities, gender, markets and mobilitiesfrom below – Latin America (SAGEMM)
LISE Laboratoire interdisciplinaire pour la sociologie économique

Help of the ANR 195,892 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: January 2022 - 36 Months

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