Penalize the most vulnerable

Image: Maxim Shklyaev


Note on the exclusion of motorcyclists delivering apps from the professional regulation process sent to the National Congress

Changes in the sphere of work and consumption have reverberated, in different ways, in the precariousness of work and in the sociability of workers. The sociability regime of Charles Dickens' factory novel, Hard times, written in the 19th century or even Robert Linhart's brilliant immersion, in Factory strike, from the late 1970s, perished.

The old work located inside factories presupposed a commitment, driven by asymmetrical power relations, between workers, unions, employers and the State. There was unemployment and intense labor exploitation. The scale, however, was different. Contemporary times present unemployment and informality as structural data of the economy that especially affects poor and black young people.

In Brazil, this context characterized what economist Márcio Pochmann (2022) called the “civil war for employment”. Traditional sectors such as civil construction and the manufacturing industry began to employ less than commerce and services. The increase in informality in these sectors paved the way for sharing companies to operate in a virgin land of regulation. According to the IBGE survey, Brazil had, in 2022, 1,5 million people working through digital platforms and service applications.

Figure 1. Brazil, evolution of ties with Brazil Gig Economy. Source: IPEA (2022).

Figure 1 indicates the occupations in the transport sector identified, roughly speaking, with the sharing sector. There is no consensus, from a terminological point of view, to characterize this economy. gig economy, shared economy or even urbanization (SLEE, 2017) are among the names for what Srnicek (2014) called “platform capitalism”. The IPEA (2022) research has as its starting point the concept of gig economy, also referred to as freelance economy ou economy on demand. Based on this conceptual umbrella, the number of motorcycle delivery drivers increased from 44,5 thousand in 2016 to 322,7 thousand in 2021, and the number of motorcycle taxi drivers increased from 254.797 in 2012 to 222.133 in 2021.

It is not without reason that the proposal to regulate the work of app-based workers, in the transportation modality, has excluded motorcyclist workers. It is the most fragile part, formed, fundamentally, by young people exposed to a wide range of occupational risks. Driving a car is different from riding a motorcycle for dozens of hours a week. The daily risks of this activity will never be socialized with large platforms or even with the State.

But we want to look at this data from another perspective. It is possible, without ever forgetting structural issues, to try to understand the whole from a fragment. From a specific worker. Somewhere in Figure 1 hides the young black man, resident of a metropolitan outskirts and app-based motorcyclist delivery driver, Winicius Alves de Freitas. As an undergraduate geography student, he decided to record his routine as a delivery motorcyclist on a spreadsheet. He did not do so following the boring rites of those who, because they are distant, intend to delve, rhetorically, into the object of research. He did so out of necessity and the pragmatism that characterizes the daily survival of the most vulnerable.

DataKm traveledTotal runs  Modalitystart timeEnd timeWorked hours      CostsGross daily incomeNet daily incomeNotes
Figure 2. Script for daily recording of 99 days of work as a delivery motorcyclist using the app. Source: Complete data from the spreadsheet available at: -2023/

It is impossible to remain indifferent to the data collected and recorded in the monograph called 99 days on the front: an experience report on motorcyclists who deliver via app in Goiânia. In the 99 daily records, if the reader has some sensitivity, he will realize that the factory of the new precarious work is the city. The different urban sites, therefore, tell everyday stories of exposure to risks. Risks of morphology, climate, urban ecology. Risks of orthopedic trauma and temporary and/or permanent injuries. Risk of carcinomas. The attentive reader will realize that, only at this historical moment, the worker experienced the true hell of flexibility.

Daily and almost simultaneous runs with passengers and deliveries. If the meal gets cold, the blame falls on the motorcyclist delivery driver. If the food is delayed, the blame falls on the motorcyclist delivery driver. There is no need, as in the old factory capitalism, for a time clock stuck on the factory door, bathrooms or cafeterias. The thefts of time, to recall the historian Thompson, in Time, discipline and work in factory capitalism, is done, apparently, by the algorithm. The algorithm, however, has CNPJ and is easily recognized by the colors of the bags of motorcyclists who populate the urban landscape. Thus, precariousness accompanies the disciplinary project of platforms.

The routine costs of work, recorded in detail by Winicius Alves Freitas, are no longer shared with the State or even the employer. A water, a snack, a meal, a popsicle, don't weigh as much in the final costs as gasoline, oil, clutch, tires, daily motorcycle maintenance. There is a symbiosis between the motorcycle and the worker. One cannot live without the other and, metaphorically, the illness of either of them will directly result in a reduction in income. Mimicry dehumanizes them.

During the 99 days in front Winicius Alves Freitas covered no less than 13.373 km, which corresponded to 1.241 runs and 1.205 passengers and 36 deliveries. The average remuneration, per km driven, considering net income, was 0,44 cents of real. He is not, however, a record holder. It is necessary to emphasize that Winicius Alves Freitas also divided the time of precarious work with the time of nighttime academic activities. Here the histories of education and work intersect in an attempt to bend destiny.

The record, in a spreadsheet, made available by the Observatory of the Brazilian Social State, can be an input to understand the reasons why digital platforms are not interested in regulating work, establishing minimum remuneration for races, social security contributions, cost assistance for motorcycle maintenance and the access to sanitary infrastructure at support points and /or restaurants and bars. This has a simple justification. The unemployed rate between 18 and 24 years old in the third quarter of 2023 reached 15,3% and between 14 and 17 years old 28,2%. If we fragment the data we can see its spatiality and class nature. Poor and unemployed young people invest in the purchase of a motorcycle or even a bicycle, often financed, as an option for some income.

This is the true infantry of platform capitalism. It is because of hundreds of thousands of young people who risk their lives, transporting people, food and goods, that we must demand, through regulation, improvements in working conditions and remuneration for motorcyclist delivery drivers via apps.


DICKENS, Charles. Hard times. São Paulo: Boitempo, 2014.

IBGE Unemployment rate by age. Third quarter of 2023. In:

IPEA. Economic situation letter number 55. Economic note number 14. Góes, Geraldo, Firmino, Antony; Martins, Felipe. Gig Economy panel in Brazil's transport sector: who, where, how many and how much earn. Brasília, IPEA, 2022. In:

LINHART, Robert. Strike at the Factory. Rio de Janeiro: Peace and Land. 1978.

POCHAMNN, Marcio. Interview. In. Jagunço system: why iFood tries to hide its relationship with intermediary companies. In:

SLEE, Tom.uberization. São Paulo: Editora Elefante, 2017.

SRNICEK, Nick. Platform Capitalism. Buenos Aires: Caja Negra Editora, 2014.

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