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Health and safety on the go: understanding and mitigating work-related ill-health of precarious work in developing countries (GCRF)


Project Description

In Low and Middle Income Countries (LMIC) and increasingly so in High Income Countries (HIC), job security has given way to the gig economy where work has been sliced and standardized and then put on an online marketplace for daily bidding by workers who are either outsourced to recruitment agency or completely at loose, i.e. self-employed or “independent contractors” . As the world is coming to terms to and existing institutional systems struggle to cope with the changing nature of work, one alarming issue is health and safety protection. In Mexico, the US, China and many other countries, media exposure based on anecdotal evidence and undercover journalists have reported various negative impact of precarious work, including self-exploitation, work-related stress, injuries, suicide attempts and death in relation to large online consumption platforms such as Amazon, CitySprint, Uber Eats, Deliveroo, Eleme and Meituan.

The result is a significant gap of knowledge about this newly emerged form of work arrangement: whether and how the gig economy has impacted workers’ short and long-term health and hence wellbeing, and whether and how to mitigate the potential negative impacts. Hence, it is imperative to conduct multidisciplinary research that utilises the latest technology and involves expertise from occupational health, psychology and computing and engineering to capture and conceptualise the problem.

China is the global leader of e-commerce with $877.00 billion online sales in 2017, which grew by 28% compared with 2016. Industry evidence compiled by the largest online Chinese platforms Alibaba and Meituan suggests at least 6.5 million express couriers (predominantly outsourced workers) were employed in 2016. It is sensible to select China at the beginning stage of this stream of research. In this PhD we will explore gig economy worker stress, against this background of working in China. This will include literature review and surveying groups of stakeholders, and hands on data collection using wearables and other methods to measure worker stress.

The prospective student should be passionate and highly motivated about multidisciplinary health research that tackles global challenges. The candidate must be fluent in Mandarin and English, preferable have obtained degree-level education in both languages, or distinctive results in standard language tests for the non-native language. The candidate should be keen to acquire knowledge in multiple disciplines and obtain a collection of transferrable skills. The project will require two years placement in China and travel between and within both countries.


Entry Requirements
Candidates are expected to hold (or be about to obtain) an Upper Second class Honours degree (or equivalent) in a related area / subject.

If you are interested in this project, please make direct contact with the Principal Supervisor to arrange to discuss the project further as soon as possible. You MUST also submit an online application form - choose PhD Primary Care and Health Services Research. Full details on how to apply can be found on the GCRF website https://www.manchester.ac.uk/study/postgraduate-research/golden/gcrf/

Funding Notes

The GCRF PhD studentship programme is a 4 year programme with integrated teaching certificate. There are up to 12 studentships available. Applicants can apply to one project which will start in either April or September 2020.

Funding for the programme will include tuition fees, an annual stipend at the minimum Research Councils UK rate (around £15,000 for 2019/20), a research training grant, training allowance and travel allowance.

As an equal opportunities institution we welcome applicants from all sections of the community regardless of gender, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation and transgender status. All appointments are made on merit.

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