Author:Mechthild von Vacano (Freie Universität Berlin)
Paper short abstract:
Through the rapid rise of app-based service providers, conventional neighbourhood-based motorbike taxi services are facing new competition in Jakarta. This paper compares both service models in terms of in/formality with regards to their legal status, organizational structures and labour conditions.
Paper long abstract:
Due to Jakarta's notorious traffic jams and its inadequate public transport system, the motorbike taxi, ojek, has become an essential means of transportation. Conventional ojek services are organized territorially by neighbourhoods (kampung) and have an established role in the informal urban economy. Recently, however, a new type of motorbike taxi service is booming: Corporate businesses like Go-Jek or Grab-Bike now provide the same transportation services through smart phone applications. These new companies are formally registered, even though 'motorbike taxi' as their service is not (yet) a legally recognized transportation. Drivers register with the respective company, but work self-employed on commission.
Threatened by this new business model, conventional ojek drivers banded together, putting up banners to keep Go-Jek and GrabBike from entering their territories, some even resorting to physical violence. To a certain degree this conflict parallels the resistance of taxi companies against the on-demand ride service Uber as we know it from many cities around world, including Jakarta. With regard to in/formality, though, the constellation is reverse: While Uber is accused of undermining the regulative framework of the taxi service industry, motorbike taxi services have been unregulated - or rather: informally regulated - all along. The new application-based business model thus increases formality.
Drawing on ethnographic research in a Jakartan neighbourhood and the analysis of local media coverage, this paper compares the two different motorbike taxi service models and elaborates on the complex intersections of the respective legal status, moral claims, organizational structures and labour conditions.
Ethnographic explorations of formal–informal linkages in contemporary global economy and politics