Navigating Precarity: Health and Safety Challenges in Southeast Asia’s Gig Economy Food Delivery Sector




Algorithmic Management, Corporate Accountability, Courier Safety, Gig Economy, Food Delivery



 This article examines the health and safety challenges of food delivery couriers in Southeast Asia within the gig economy, focusing on the roles of third-party platforms, like GrabFood, Foodpanda, and GoFood. It critically assesses how these platforms navigate courier safety amidst algorithmic management and precarious employment, employing a framework to evaluate corporate commitment, operational practices, and worker support. The study scrutinizes public corporate reports to reveal the gap between companies’ safety claims and actual practices, advocating for more genuinely worker-centric safety measures. By highlighting discrepancies in the operationalization of health and safety standards, the research contributes to discussions on gig economy labor conditions, emphasizing the need for platforms to prioritize worker welfare alongside operational efficiency. This work calls for a shift towards sustainable models that do not compromise courier health and safety, filling a gap in the literature on the real-world impacts of algorithmic management and precarious work.

Author Biography

Gary Daniels, Sunway University

The author is the Head of the Centre for Hospitality Innovation and Leadership (CHIL) at the School of Hospitality and Service Management, Sunway University, Malaysia. Following an early academic career in the UK, he ventured into the hospitality industry, establishing, owning, and managing several hospitality businesses in China over ten years. This industry experience has enriched his perspective on hospitality and employment relations, sparking a keen interest in researching the impact of external disruptions on the hospitality sector. 


Ahmad, E., Daud, A., Hairon, S., Nordin, R., Azmir, N., & Jalil, M. (2023). Prevalence and impact of workrelated musculoskeletal disorders among food delivery riders in Eastern Peninsular Malaysia. International Journal of Innovative Research and Scientific Studies, 6, 586-593.

Binghay, V. C., Lu, S. F., & Lu, J. L. (2022). Work, health, and safety conditions of delivery riders in the Philippines during COVID-19 pandemic. Acta Medica Philippina, 56(19), 79-86.

Bowen, G. A. (2009). Document analysis as a qualitative research method. Qualitative Research Journal, 9(2), 27-40.

Chan, J. (2021). Hunger for profit: How food delivery platforms manage couriers in China. Sociologias, 23(57), 58-82.

Christie, N., & Ward, H. (2019). The health and safety risks for people who drive for work in the gig economy. Journal of Transport & Health, 13, 115-127.

Defossez, D. (2022). The employment status of food delivery riders in Europe and the UK: Self-employed or worker? Maastricht Journal of European and Comparative Law, 29(1), 25-46.

Delivery Hero. (2023). Always delivering an amazing experience: Delivery Hero 2022 annual report.

European Trade Union Confederation. (2024, April 1). Platform Work Directive: a milestone towards innovation that delivers for all.


Fairclough, N. (2010). Critical discourse analysis: The critical study of language (2nd ed.). Routledge.

Foodpanda Malaysia. (2023). Foodpanda Malaysia enhances rewards and protection benefits for delivery partners and their families. foodpanda Magazine.

Google, Temasek, and Bain & Company. (2023). e-Conomy SEA 2023: Navigating the sea of digital opportunities. [Report].

GoTo. (2021). Creating long-term value for people and the planet. GoTo Sustainability Report 2020.

GoTo. (2022). Empowering progress, sustainability report 2021.

GoTo. (2023a). One ecosystem one purpose. GoTo Sustainability Report 2022.’22_FINAL_HYPERLINK.pdf

GoTo. (2023b). One enduring system: 2022 GoTo annual report.

Grab. (2023a). Form 20-F 2022 annual report. US Securities and Exchange Commission.

Grab. (2023b). A decade of scaling impact, empowering change: Grab ESG report 2022.

Graham, M., Woodcock, J., Heeks, R., Mungai, P., Van Belle, J.-P., du Toit, D., Fredman, S., Osiki, A., van derSpuy, A., & Silberman, S. M. (2020). The Fairwork Foundation: Strategies for improving platform work in a global context. Geoforum, 112, 100-103.

Gregory, K. (2021). ‘My life is more valuable than this’: Understanding risk among on-demand food couriers in Edinburgh. Work, Employment and Society, 35(2), 316-331.

He, Y., Sun, C., & Chang, F. (2023). The road safety and risky behavior analysis of delivery vehicle drivers in China. Accident Analysis and Prevention, 184.

Ibrahim, J., Carvalho, M., & Tan, T. (2023, April 4). Over 1,200 accidents, 112 deaths involving food delivery riders since 2018. The Star.

Ibrahim, M. K. A., Ab Rashid, A. A., Mohd Jawi, Z., & Jamil, H. (2018). Riding hazards and crash risks facing Malaysian courier riders in the last mile delivery. Journal of the Society of Automotive Engineers Malaysia, 2(2), 141-150.

International Labour Organization. (2024). ILOSTAT database. Retrieved 2 February 2024,

Jarrahi, M. H., Sutherland, W., Nelson, S. B., & Sawyer, S. (2020). Platformic management, boundary resources for gig work, and worker autonomy. Computer Supported Cooperative Work, 29, 153-189.

Kok, Y. (2022, November 5). 1 in 3 food delivery workers needed medical aid after an accident: IPS poll. The Straits Times.

Lata, L. N., Burdon, J., & Reddel, T. (2023). New tech, old exploitation: Gig economy, algorithmic control and migrant labour. Sociology Compass, 17(1), e13028.

Lau, T. C., & Ng, D. (2019). Online food delivery services: Making food delivery the new normal. Journal of Marketing Advance and Practices, 1(1), 64-79.

Lee, M. K., Kusbit, D., Metsky, E., & Dabbish, L. (2015). Working with machines: The impact of algorithmic and data-driven management on human workers. Proceedings of the 33rd Annual ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems.

Mbare, B. (2023). Psychosocial work environment and mental wellbeing of food delivery platform workers in Helsinki, Finland: A qualitative study. International Journal of Qualitative Studies on Health and Wellbeing,

(1), 2173336.

Ministry of Manpower. (2021a, October 8). Workplace injuries in 1H 2021 comparable to pre-COVID levels [Press release]. Singapore Government Agency.

Ministry of Manpower. (2021b). Workplace safety and health report January – June 2021. Singapore Government Agency.

Ministry of Manpower. (2022). Workplace safety and health report 2022. Singapore Government Agency.

Momentum Works. (2024). In focus: Food delivery platforms in Southeast Asia trends, numbers, strategies & outlook. Momentum Work Industry Report, 31 January 2024.

Perkiö, M., Mbare, B., Svynarenko, A., Kokkinen, L., & Koivusalo, M. (2023). Occupational safety and health risks amongst food delivery workers.

Poon, W. C., & Tung, S. E. H. (2024). The rise of online food delivery culture during the COVID-19 pandemic: An analysis of intention and its associated risk. European Journal of Management and Business Economics, 33(1), 54-73.

Rani, U., & Furrer, M. (2020). Digital labour platforms and new forms of flexible work in developing countries: Algorithmic management of work and workers. Competition & Change, 25(2), 212-236.

Shapiro, A. (2018). Between autonomy and control: Strategies of arbitrage in the “on-demand” economy. New Media & Society, 20(8), 2954-2971.

Tech Collective. (2019, July 16). The emergence of gig economy in Southeast Asia.

Veen, A., Barratt, T., & Goods, C. (2019). Platform-capital’s ‘app-etite’ for control: A labour process analysis of food-delivery work in Australia. Work, Employment and Society, 34(3), 388-406.

Waeyaert, W., Lenaerts, K., & Gillis, D. (2022). Spain: The ‘Riders’ Law’, new regulation on digital platform work. Policy case study.


Wood, A. J., Graham, M., Lehdonvirta, V., & Hjorth, I. (2019). Good gig, bad gig: Autonomy and algorithmic control in the global gig economy. Work, Employment and Society, 33(1), 56-75.

Wu, P. F., Zheng, R., Zhao, Y., & Li, Y. (2022). Happy riders are all alike? Ambivalent subjective experience and mental well-being of food-delivery platform workers in China. New Technology, Work and Employment, 37(3), 425-444.

Zong, Y., Tsaur, S.-H., & Dai, Y.-Y. (2024). Hassles of platform-based food couriers: An Asian case study. Journal of Transport & Health, 34, 101743.

Zulkifli, A. M. (2023, April 4). 112 food delivery riders in fatal road accidents, says transport minister. MalaysiaNow.






Research Workshop