digital workers

Image: Igor Starkov


Considerations about workers in the transport of passengers and goods

Application workers or startups, whose type of work is contracted, without an employment relationship, through a digital platform – which connects users to service providers –, were the first to feel in their pockets, body and soul the effects of the Labor Reform, especially those linked to to the passenger and goods transport sector. Before being implemented by the Brazilian Parliament, under Law No. 13.467 of 2017, business power, as historian João Bernardo argued in an article, had already anticipated and applied to workers what would be effected by the aforementioned Reform in the standard of living of workers. workers when Uber arrived in Brazil, in 2014, a private transport giant that employs drivers under employment relationships without a signed contract, that is, without the right to a minimum wage and social protection.[I]

Citing report from McKinsey Global Institute, the magazine The Economist, reported that “162 million people in America and Europe, or more than 20% of the working-age population, work outside of normal employment.”[ii] In other words, they are in the economy of informality. And this is, therefore, the dynamics of paid ridesharing and delivery companies, two branches of activity that make up the so-called gig economy, or, in the language of the day, called the gig economy, associated with precarious forms of work, which establishes on-demand and temporary work relationships.[iii]

It is an economic activity based on applications and distributed among the transport, accommodation, delivered, entertainment and services in general, which, in other words, means, for workers, access to the economy of the . or part-time, consultants and self-employed, in which payment is made by the hour, by race or by delivery, which reduces production costs by lowering the cost of labor. It consists, therefore, in a version of toyotism, today one of the “main forms of productive activity in current capitalism”, only taken to its ultimate consequences.

Toyotism, as a new modality of business administration, combines, through advanced technological infrastructure, workforce control and economic activity (Bernardo, 2014). And it is linked to the flexible accumulation of capital that is highlighted, among other phenomena, by the decrease in the use of living labor in the productive process (in this case, the total subservience of the worker to the app so as to eliminate any form of idiosyncrasy and make labor cheaper) and by making services available to market niches that, in order to become profitable, demand greater precariousness to the point of eliminating wages, total increase in informality and of the fusion between absolute and relative added value, amalgamating the modern and the archaic (Oliveira, 2003), covering social neomarginalization (Antunes, 2009, p. 234) ideologically as “entrepreneurship”, “do it yourself” and allegedly raising the unemployed and the non-employable to the category of “self-employed”.

It is about this type of worker, inserted in the context of the labor relations of the gig economy, still with certain measurement difficulties, which is the article on screen.[iv] And, in this sense, to draw a brief picture of the situation of application workers, we consulted microdata from the National Household Sample Survey Continues (PNADC/IBGE), 3rd quarter of 2022, information available at the time of the study, given its very high level. detailed and its consistency in the collection of information on the functioning mechanisms of the Brazilian labor market. The next step was to filter the Classification of Occupations for Household Surveys and the National Classification of Household Economic Activities (CNAED), from which we identified and located attributes of workers from app, such as occupation, age, sex, color/race, work qualification, income, etc.

The predicates to characterize the profile of this busy worker can be found in the PNADC/IBGE microdata identified in the Self-Employed regime and in the economic activity group Transport, storage and mail, specifically in the activities of passenger road transport, cargo road transport and activities pouch and delivery. It is important to note that, as the PNADC/IBGE is not designed to capture specific occupational groups, the coefficient of variation of any estimate can fluctuate. Another note to highlight is that this study is based on two surveys by the Institute of Applied Economic Research [IPEA] (2021, 2022), particularly on its methodology for estimating the universe of app workers.[v] Therefore, considering the possible fluctuations, as observed, the results presented here are estimated to understand the alternative work arrangements, in which a significant portion of the Economically Active Population (EAP) seeks their means of material survival.

PNADC/IBGE, 3rd quarter of 2022, recruited 5,3 million workers linked to the Transport, warehousing and mail sector, of which 31% (1,6 million people, according to Table 1) were workers from app operating on its own account. Of this universe, as shown in Table 1, almost 1,0 million work as app and taxi drivers, representing 62% of the workforce. The second largest contingent of workers is in the occupation of motoboy, with over 319 thousand people, followed by mototaxi drivers and other couriers (by bicycle or car), respectively, 224 thousand and 62 thousand workers.

When compared to the third quarter of 2021, according to information from IPEA, based on PNADC/IBGE microdata for the period, there is a 4% growth in workers in the so-called gig economy, rising from 1,5 million in 2021 to 1,6 million in 2022. And, in the quarterly comparison between occupations, the greatest growth occurs in the role of couriers, by bicycle or car, and by motorcycle, respectively, 21 % and 7% of workers. In the case of the transport of goods, in particular the delivery of food, a report by the magazine Business Season, December 2021 edition, revealed that Ifood alone employs, on its own, more than 200 delivery workers, that is, 62% of the surveyed universe. Here we have a perfect example of Toyotism, when the company, in order to accumulate capital and exploit the workforce, manages a mass of workers without having to concentrate them in the same physical space.

Table 1 - Number of self-employed workers in the transport sector (passenger and goods), according to occupation and economic activity – Brazil, 2022

Source: Authors' elaboration based on PNADC/IBEGE microdata, 3rd quarter of 2022.

 The regional distribution of workers from app across Brazil reveals that the Southeast region (Table 2) concentrates a percentage above 50% of this workforce, in the case of motoboys, app drivers and taxi drivers. The data confirm the more widespread presence of activities related to gig economy in cities/regions, particularly in metropolitan areas, where the economic fabric is more developed. Platforms like Uber, which globally employs, outside labor and social legislation, more than 5,0 million drivers[vi], began operating in the US and later expanded their presence in other economies, notably in Latin America.[vii]

the rise of gig economy shows that the remodeling capitalism undergoes begins where it is most advanced, and it is in this same type of society, due to the struggle of workers, that Uber, for example, was forced to grant labor rights, as happened in the United Kingdom. United.[viii]

Motorcycle taxi drivers, on the other hand, have a significant presence in the Northeast region, representing 51% of professionals in this category, as reported in Table 2.

Tabela 2 – Regional distribution of self-employed workers in the transport sector (passenger and goods), according to major regions – Brazil, 2022

Source: Authors' elaboration based on PNADC/IBEGE microdata, 3rd quarter of 2022.


This sector of economic activity has a predominantly male workforce, whose average age is 36,7 years, with app and taxi drivers being the oldest professional, as shown in Tables 3 and 4. In the color attribute /race, observed in Table 5, we can see the predominance of black/brown/indigenous people among motorcycle taxi drivers, while for other professionals the percentage is close to 57%.

Tabela 3 – Distribution of the percentage of workers employed in the transport sector (passengers and goods), self-employed, according to the worker's gender – Brazil, 2022

Source: Authors' elaboration based on PNADC/IBEGE microdata, 3rd quarter of 2022.


Tabela 4 – Average age of self-employed workers in the transport sector (passenger and goods) – Brazil, 2022 

Source: elaborated by the authors based on PNADC/IBEGE microdata, 3rd quarter


Tabela 5 – Distribution of the percentage of workers employed in the transport sector (passenger and goods), self-employed, according to color/race of the worker – Brazil, 2022 

Source: Authors' elaboration based on PNADC/IBEGE microdata, 3rd quarter of 2022.

With regard to the skills of the people employed – the parameter is learning in the classroom, that is, formal schooling –, they are workers with a high school qualification. As reported in Table 6, the average qualification is distributed above 50%, with almost 70% for motoboys. In the total employed EAP, 43% of workers have the qualification in question. Among motorcycle taxi drivers, there is a higher percentage of employed people with low qualifications (almost 45%), while the highest qualification level is found among app drivers and taxi drivers (20%).

For the item average monthly income (Table 7), the estimates indicate that app drivers and taxi drivers have the best earnings. There are R$2,2 received in the third quarter of 2022, followed by motoboys, with a monthly income of R$1,7. Motorcycle taxi drivers receive R$ 1,1 per month, less than the minimum wage in force in 2022, which is R$ 1,2. The average monthly income for the total employed EAP, in the same period, is R$ 2,7.

Tabela 6 – Distribution of the percentage of workers employed in the transport sector (passenger and goods), on a self-employed basis, according to the type of qualification* of the worker – Brazil, 2022


Source: Authors' elaboration based on PNADC/IBEGE microdata, 3rd quarter of 2022

* We selected the highest level of education achieved to compose the qualification variable. In this sense, low qualification includes: no education and less than 1 year of study, incomplete elementary school or equivalent, complete elementary school or equivalent; medium qualification includes: incomplete medium or equivalent, complete medium or equivalent; high qualification comprises: incomplete higher education or equivalent, complete higher education.


Tabela 7 – Average monthly income received by workers employed in the transport sector (passengers and goods), self-employed – Brazil, 2022

Source: Authors' elaboration based on PNADC/IBEGE microdata, 3rd quarter of 2022.

*Not excluding maintenance and fuel costs.


Tabela 8 – Average weekly working hours of self-employed workers in the transport sector (passenger and goods) – Brazil, 2022

Source: Authors' elaboration based on PNADC/IBEGE microdata, 3rd quarter of 2022.


Qualification, as well as income and weekly working hours, which average more than 40 hours (Table 8), show how the passenger and goods transport sector develops its productivity mechanisms, that is, to guaranteeing the accumulation of capital, it attracts a contingent of workers with medium qualifications, offering them low wages and imposing long working hours. The apps or startups, forms of work that have been remodeling the economy, which outsource the delivery of goods and the transport of passengers and, circumventing labor legislation, live at the expense of the condition of risk[ix] and insecurity, especially the economic one, to which workers are subjected, selling them the illusion that they can be independent and not have a boss.[X]

This reflection exemplifies how capitalism, notably in peripheral societies, such as Brazil, has expanded, through such economic remodeling, job insecurity for the working class as a whole, in terms of working conditions, remuneration, forms of control and discipline.

*Anderson Alves Esteves He is a professor at the Federal Institute of Education, Science and Technology of São Paulo (IFSP).

*Marcelo Phintener is a doctoral candidate in political philosophy at PUC-SP.


ANTUNES, R.; BRAGA, R. (org.) infoproletarians: real degradation of virtual work. São Paulo: Boitempo, 2009.

BERNARDO, J. “The Complex Architecture of Futility”. TAVARES, R.

H.; GOMES, S. dos S. (Orgs.). Society, Education and Networks: challenges to critical education. Araraquara, SP: Junqueira&Marin, 2014.

CANT, C. Delivery Fight! – The fight against the faceless bosses. Sao Paulo: Veneta, 2021.

ESTEVES, AA Does “Class C” go to paradise? The social stratification of Brazil in the beginning of the 2015th century. Saarbrücken: New Academic Editions, XNUMX.

_____. “The ideology of the “Class C” as the new Brazilian middle class” In: Intuition, Porto Alegre: PUC-RS, vol. 8, No. 1, Jun. of 2015, pp. 15-31.

OLIVEIRA, F. de. Criticism of dualist reason; the platypus. Sao Paulo: Boitempo, 2003.


[I] About this, see here

[ii] About this, see here

[iii] About this, see here . Is here

[iv] About this, see here; is here

[v] About see here ;is here

[vi] About this, see here

[vii] About this, see here

[viii] About this, see here and also see here

[ix] About this, see here

[X] About this, see here

The site the earth is round exists thanks to our readers and supporters.
Help us keep this idea going.
Click here and find how

See this link for all articles


  • About artificial ignoranceEugenio Bucci 15/06/2024 By EUGÊNIO BUCCI: Today, ignorance is not an uninhabited house, devoid of ideas, but a building full of disjointed nonsense, a goo of heavy density that occupies every space
  • Introduction to “Capital” by Karl Marxred triangular culture 02/06/2024 By ELEUTÉRIO FS PRADO: Commentary on the book by Michael Heinrich
  • Franz Kafka, libertarian spiritFranz Kafka, libertarian spirit 13/06/2024 By MICHAEL LÖWY: Notes on the occasion of the centenary of the death of the Czech writer
  • Impasses and solutions for the political momentjose dirceu 12/06/2024 By JOSÉ DIRCEU: The development program must be the basis of a political commitment from the democratic front
  • Union registrationSUBWAY 11/06/2024 By LAWRENCE ESTIVALET DE MELLO & RENATA QUEIROZ DUTRA: The Ministry of Labor has decided to grant union registration to Proifes. However, union registration is not the same as union representation
  • The strike at federal Universities and Institutescorridor glazing 01/06/2024 By ROBERTO LEHER: The government disconnects from its effective social base by removing those who fought against Jair Bolsonaro from the political table
  • The society of dead historyclassroom similar to the one in usp history 16/06/2024 By ANTONIO SIMPLICIO DE ALMEIDA NETO: The subject of history was inserted into a generic area called Applied Human and Social Sciences and, finally, disappeared into the curricular drain
  • Confessions of a Catholic LadyMarilia Pacheco Fiorillo 11/06/2024 By MARILIA PACHECO FIORILLO: Congenital reactionism is not only the preserve of evangelicals
  • Strengthen PROIFESclassroom 54mf 15/06/2024 By GIL VICENTE REIS DE FIGUEIREDO: The attempt to cancel PROIFES and, at the same time, turn a blind eye to the errors of ANDES management is a disservice to the construction of a new representation scenario
  • The STF, Artificial Intelligence and the Labor Courtsouto-maior_edited 07/06/2024 By JORGE LUIZ SOUTO MAIOR: The implementation of the replacement of the human being by AI presupposes that it has already been trained to act in the way desired by the ruling class