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Is Technology-Enabled Mobility Service Socially Sustainable? A Look at On-Demand Workforce Well-Being Through Human Needs Theory
Authors: Markus Hartono (Department of Industrial Engineering, University of Surabaya), Hendry Raharjo (Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden), I Made Ronyastra (Department of Industrial Engineering, University of Surabaya)
Technology-enabled mobility service offers flexible, personalized, and often lower fees for people to traverse the urban environment. For the workforce, it offers freedom and increased autonomy. However, Goldkind and McNutt (2018) argued that such service system seems to have a vampire-like effect, sucking resources and protections out of the economic ecosystem while benefitting only a very small group of people. Is this alternative work arrangement an oppression in disguise and thus increasing income inequality in sharing economy (Schor, 2017)?
In this research, we look at this phenomenon through the perspective of human needs ERG (existence, relatedness, and growth) theory by Alderfer (1969). It does not assume lower-level satisfaction as a prerequisite for the emergence of higher-order needs as in Maslow’s theory. Does the use of technological platform for mobility service lead to better workforce’s well-being? We collect empirical data through in-depth interviews and questionnaires from both the traditional taxi company and the on-demand mobility service provider company (Go-Car). It is an online based car ridesharing service run by Indonesian first unicorn start-up company called Go-Jek. As of December 2017, there are approximately 15 million active users and more than 100 million transactions per month.
We did a preliminary study involving 10 Go-Car drivers and 7 traditional taxi drivers ranging from 20 to 68 years old. With respect to existence needs, we found that the income of Go-Car drivers is remarkably higher than the traditional taxi drivers. One Go-Car driver who is 68-year old and retired said that “I do not chase the income, I just do this as a sideline. Since I can earn money, this is better than doing nothing at home. I have and can drive a car anyway. I can go home whenever I feel tired”. Another interesting finding is that most Go-Car drivers have their full-time job and see Go-Car as a sideline job. On the other hand, quite a number of the full-time traditional taxi drivers have a sideline job.
With respect to relatedness needs, we could not find a strong contrast between the two groups. One Go-Car driver said “my relationship with superiors and other drivers is good, we help each other through the WhatsApp group. We treat each other like a family”. Such good relationship also exists among the traditional taxi drivers. Most of them think that their job is important because it helps them provide a living for their family. With respect to growth needs, interactions with passengers, including information exchange and emotional labour, are part of their daily learning experience. Go-Car drivers perceived their job as very prospective at least for the next 2 years, despite no basic salary, health insurance, pension scheme as in the case of traditional taxi drivers.