Becoming a pirate: Independence as an alternative to exit in the gig economy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


How and why do platform workers ‘quit’? Drawing on original qualitative data from 84 ride-hail drivers, the author finds that platform companies use information asymmetries to downplay the true cost of working a ‘gig’. Once workers realize these costs, some exit, yet others cannot because they have come to rely on their ride-hail income to meet their short-term needs, a phenomenon the author refers to as ‘acquired dependence’. In response, the author finds these workers begin their own ‘pirate’ (illegal) taxi operations to decrease their dependence on platform companies. These findings are then used to develop an original survey instrument that tests if drivers’ ‘acquired dependence’ is associated with ‘pirate’ taxi operations. Using survey data from 330 ride-hail drivers, the author finds evidence that drivers with greater acquired dependence are more likely to develop off-app ‘pirate’ taxi operations. In doing so, this article develops both a new category of conflict and response for marketized employment relationships.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)46-67
Number of pages22
JournalBritish Journal of Industrial Relations
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Business, Management and Accounting
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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