A day in the life of a ride-hailing driver

A day in the life of a ride-hailing driver

"Ride-hailing" has undoubtedly become integrated into our daily lives and changed our travel habits. In contrast, there is the rise of a group – ride-hailing drivers.

Perhaps we have all had a brief and fragmented understanding of their situation in a brief chat with the driver. But the details of their daily work and life are rarely known.

The protagonist of this article, Li Wenwu, is a full-time online ride-hailing driver. In order to repay the loan and give his children a better life, he wakes up at 5 o’clock every day, goes home late at night, and works at least 13 hours, almost all year round.

On the road, he needs to plan his itinerary carefully, and he also needs to deal with the Internet ride-hailing platform at any time – playing games and cooperating at the same time.

For him, driving a ride-hailing car is a necessity. To this end, he sacrifices his sleep and health, and time with his family. As he put it, "If you take the steering wheel in your hand, you can’t accompany your child to grow up; and if you accompany your child, you can’t support the family."

More drivers, like him, are seeking a better life in this situation.

The author of this article, Zhao Lei, is a teacher at the China Institute of Labor Relations. To complete her doctoral dissertation, she also became an online ride-hailing driver in the summer of 2021, and thus approached, learned about, and wrote about Li Wenwu’s day.

This article is excerpted from"Digital Labor", The subtitle is prepared by the editor and authorized by the publishing house to push. Due to space limitations, some omissions have been made, and the omissions have been marked with "…".

Ride-hailing driver Li Wenwu is charging his car

Ride-hailing driver Li Wenwu is charging his car

Mobility and livelihood under the wheel:

The production and reproduction of ride-hailing drivers

Text | Zhao Lei

1. "It’s 5:00 now, let’s take another 10 minutes to get up. "

"Beep, beep, beep, beep, beep…" The alarm on the phone woke Li Wenwu up from his deep sleep.

Subconsciously, he hurried to turn off the buzzing alarm for fear of waking his sleeping wife and infant son. He adjusted his sleeping position for a final "struggle" before waking up. The muscles in his waist, shoulders and neck were sore and painful during the roll-over, which was a problem of sitting day after day. A year ago, sleep relieved the pain, but now it has no effect.

"Ah!" He closed his eyes, frowned, and the pain in his muscles forced him to call out softly. "It’s 5:00 now, I’ll definitely get up for another 10 minutes," Li Wenwu said to himself. Although he knew that getting up on time would make his next work more leisurely, he just wanted to greedily enjoy the joy and satisfaction of "returning to the cage", even if it was only for 10 minutes.

After a while, Li Wenwu woke up from his "back to sleep" and opened his eyes to check his mobile phone, 5:08. There were still two minutes before he got up, and he was happy inside. Although he could no longer sleep in these two minutes, he still insisted on preserving the beauty of these last two minutes. He was very sleepy, but his thoughts told him that he could not sleep anymore, otherwise he might completely delay his work. He lay on the bed calmly, but the sleepiness and reason in his body, the tired body and the anxious heart were fiercely struggling. He opened his eyes again and looked at his watch, 5:09. "There is still one minute", although he was fully awake at this moment, he still insisted on getting up at 5:10.

This moment of time was for him, even if it was only one minute, he would keep it for himself. He knew that only this time belonged to him, and there was no responsibility or obligation, so he could lie willfully like this. Just lying like this, he was very satisfied.

At 5:10, although Li Wenwu still wanted to "stay" in bed like this, he struggled to get out of bed after thinking that he still had to pay off his mortgage and car loan this month. Even after a night of rest, he still felt like his body was falling apart. "Hey, I’m old, my body and bones are not as durable as before."

Li Wenwu, who was born in 1992, felt the physical changes he had undergone as a full-time driver for three years.

When I first started working full-time, I ran for 15 hours a day. Even if I was too tired to talk when I went home at night, I would be full of blood the next day after sleeping. Now the online time has dropped from 15 hours to 13 hours, but I still can’t slow down after a night of rest, especially the muscles in my shoulders, neck and waist are sore and sore.

As he washed his face and brushed his teeth, he recalled the little changes in his body. After spitting out the last mouthwash, he looked at himself in the mirror, his young face a little tired. "Come on!" He cheered himself up, "I am the pillar of the family, and I need to support my children, wife, car and house. Men just need to work hard and earn money to support their families. Earn more money while you are young, when will you not fight now?"

After some psychological hints, he gobbled up some bread and milk, and left with a one-liter bottle of Pulse, a bag of individually packaged biscuits, and car keys. Before leaving, he made a special trip to the bedroom door, looking reluctantly at his sleeping wife and children with love in his eyes. He wished he could stay with them, share some housework for his wife, change diapers for his son, and feed milk powder. But he knew that the cost of taking a day off was huge, not only helpless to pay off the loan, but also unable to balance today’s living expenses. He wanted to stay, but he couldn’t. He was the hope of the family’s life, and they were the driving force for his struggle. He struggled inwardly, and went out with nostalgia and responsibility for his family.

A day in the life of a ride-hailing driver

2. "I’m a professional, I just finished the’witness’ exam two days ago"

At 5:25, Li Wenwu opened the door with familiarity, put the drink and biscuits in his hand in the passenger seat, and glanced at the dashboard, "There are still 40 kilometers left, and it is estimated that it will take an hour and a half to fill up. It should be online at 7:00 to receive orders." As he calculated the time, he drove to the new energy charging station closest to his house.

The starting point of Mr. Li’s daily work is to charge his car. Typically, charging stations impose tiered tariffs depending on the time period. The cheapest time of day is between 0:00 and 7:00 in the morning. The price per kilowatt-hour of electricity during this time is between 0.3 and 0.8 yuan, while the price at other times is between 0.8 and 1.6 yuan. The reason why the electricity price fluctuates in a certain range is because of the different promotions of each charging station and the different partnerships between each charging station and the online car-hailing platform.

Some time ago, the charging station that Li Wenwu frequented and the W platform jointly held promotional activities, and the electricity price was 0.3 yuan/kWh. The low electricity price attracted a large number of drivers, and Li Wenwu had to get up at 4:30 every morning to wait in line for the charging space.

For a long time, online ride-hailing platforms have regarded online ride-hailing drivers as "drivers and vehicle dealers waiting in line for charging when independently contracting charging stations and W platforms do promotional activities", and have shaped the awareness of online ride-hailing drivers through words such as "service cooperation agreements" and "long-term partner awards".

Under the discourse system created by the online car-hailing platform, the online car-hailing driver acknowledges that he is an operator who needs to be responsible for his own profits and losses, and is in a cooperative relationship with the online car-hailing platform. Charging costs are the daily operating costs that each online car-hailing driver must bear.

"What you save is what you earn" is their business attitude. So, to save costs, many ride-hailing drivers like Li Wenwu choose to charge at the cheapest time and the cheapest charging station. The difference between these drivers is that some people like to charge after collecting the car, while others like to charge before leaving the car.

After arriving at the charging station, Li Wenwu found that there were two cars in front of him, so he hurriedly opened the owner’s app on the W platform and checked the electricity price of his charging station and the usage of all the electric piles in the "Charging". The interface of this charging station shows that the original price is 0.89 yuan/kWh, and the active price is 0.5 yuan/kWh. There are 24 charging piles in total, and the charging capacity of 5 charging piles has reached 96%. "It turned out that there is an activity again, but fortunately there are 5 cars coming out soon." Li Wenwu thought, parked the car and tightened the handbrake.

Li Wenwu has a love-hate relationship with charging station activities. On the one hand, low electricity prices can reduce operating costs. At 0.3 yuan/kWh, it costs less than 10 yuan for his car to be fully charged, which is one-third of what it costs when it is not on sale. But on the other hand, low electricity prices will increase his time costs. Because low electricity prices will attract a large number of "cheap" drivers, resulting in a shortage of charging stations, he had to get up more than an hour early and wait in line for charging. "Fortunately, this event is not so cheap, so there are not as many drivers as before, and there will be a place after a while." Li Wenwu comforted himself.

Sure enough, five minutes later, the security guard at the charging station directed him to the free charging station. After parking the car in the cramped parking space, he carefully opened the door, lest the door bump into the charging car next to him. After getting out of the car, he opened the charging port of his car and skillfully unplugged the charging gun on the charging station and inserted it into the charging port of the vehicle. After hearing a "pop" sound, he was sure that the charging station and the vehicle had been connected at the object level, so he took out his mobile phone, opened the app to enter the page of the charging station just now, and scanned the code to link the charging station and the vehicle at the information level. After the link is completed, both the mobile phone and the vehicle console will display the percentage of the vehicle’s current battery and the remaining charging time.

Li Wenwu’s car can run 406 kilometers on a full charge, but this is not enough to support him to complete the order volume for a day, so he needs to replenish the battery for half an hour during lunch.

After charging the car, Li Wenwu started cleaning the inside and outside of the car like other in-app ride-hailing drivers. In addition to charging, cleaning the car is an unpaid task that ride-hailing drivers must complete every day.

Whether the inside and outside of the car is clean, tidy and odor-free will directly affect the passenger’s evaluation of the driver, which in turn indirectly affects the driver’s order volume and income. In the service standard of the W platform, there is an indicator called "clean and hygienic inside and outside the car". Passengers can evaluate this standard. If passengers find that the inside and outside of the car are not clean and there is odor in the car when they take the car, they can make bad comments or complaints about the driver’s service, which will directly affect the "word-of-mouth value" of the online ride-hailing driver, which in turn affects the number of orders the platform sends to the driver and the driver’s income.

Li Wenwu took out a portable bucket and two towels from the trunk of the car, fetched a bucket of water from the rest room of the charging station, and began to scrub the inside and outside of the car. He started cleaning the car, first placing the drink he brought from home in the morning in the cup socket next to the driver’s seat, then placing the biscuit in the armrest next to the cup seat, and placing the pulsating bottle he drank yesterday under the driver’s seat for emergencies.

Then, he began to wipe the seats, frames, and glass in the car with the special rag in the car, and took out the floor mats of the back seat to dust off the debris and dust left by the passengers. Finally, after emptying the garbage discarded by the passengers in the garbage basket in the car, he began to wash the outside of the vehicle.

At this point, the car next to him was fully charged and drove away. I drove the car next to him under the command of the charging station security. "Are you late today?" Li Wenwu saw me and stood up to instruct me to park in the parking space. "Yeah, I got up late. I drove for 11 hours yesterday and was exhausted."

"Understood, let alone a female doll, I am like this every day." As he spoke, he opened the lid of the charging port of the vehicle and plugged in the charging gun weighing more than ten catties for me.

A day in the life of a ride-hailing driver

My research focuses on Internet platforms and non-standard employment. My acquaintance with Li Wenwu originated from a taxi ride two years ago.

In August 2019, I went home from my summer vacation. Before the high-speed rail station arrived, I booked a ride-hailing car through the app on the W platform. The driver was Li Wenwu. He called me to communicate our location. After learning that I had not yet gotten off the train, Li Wenwu told me that he had been waiting at the pick-up point of the online ride-hailing passengers at the high-speed rail station, and told me exactly the route after getting off. I followed his instructions and found him smoothly.

I was still a bit surprised to see that he was already waiting outside the car. He politely confirmed the tail number of his mobile phone to me, helped me with my luggage, and opened the door for me. This set of services I have not experienced in Beijing. "A private car owner is willing and able to provide such professional service!?" I looked at Li Wenwu carefully through the rearview mirror with surprise and doubt.

He was in his early 30s, slightly fat, and three small "hills" stood out under the binding of the seat belt. The slender single eyelids on the fleshy national face were narrowed into slits, and the thick sword eyebrows made his face look very heroic.

"Your service is so good! I kept you waiting just now." The heartfelt praise made me open his chatterbox.

"I’m a professional. I just finished my personal identification test two days ago. If this were tomorrow, you would be riding in a new car!"

"Congratulations! But your car looks pretty new, why change it?"

"I don’t want to change either, but the government requires that people who are engaged in online car-hailing operations must hold a license to work. In addition to a person’s license, the car must also have a’car license ‘ (" Online Booking Taxi Transportation Certificate "). If you don’t apply for these two licenses, one is that the W platform may not give orders in the future, and the other is that if the government finds it, it will be punished as a black car. Now only new energy vehicles can apply for a’car license’. No, I spent 163,000 buying a’compliance car ‘some time ago."

In reality, the behavior of online car-hailing drivers who specially test "witnesses" and invest in buying cars for sports cars is in great contrast to the theory that online car-hailing drivers use idle resources to work part-time in online car-hailing to earn extra income.

"Can you make money back by investing so much money?" I asked more curiously.

"Yes! My down payment is 50,000 yuan, and the rest of the money will be paid off in 3 years, and only 3,500 yuan will be repaid every month. I run for 13 hours a day, and the water is about 600 yuan. 30 days a month, you calculate how much money I earn a month, can I earn it back?"

While listening to Li Wenwu’s explanation, I helped him calculate this account in my heart. Indeed, after deducting the car loan, he can earn more than 10,000 a month.

"Then don’t you rest every month?" I want to further confirm whether he can make so much money.

"I don’t care about the rest platform, but I usually don’t rest except when I have something to do at home. Because not only can’t I earn money from rest, but I can’t repay the money I owe to the bank. What do you think you don’t need to spend money to do now? A family needs money to eat, drink, raise children, and pay off the mortgage and car loan. How can I be qualified to rest?"

As we were chatting, I arrived at my destination. Li Wenwu helped me unload the suitcase from the trunk and handed it to me, saying, "It’s important to me that you comment on my service at your convenience."

I praised him at the time, introduced him to the research content of my doctoral dissertation, and added his WeChat for further research with his consent. In this way, he became my introduction to the study of ride-hailing drivers. After learning that I had rented a car and started working as a ride-hailing driver, he was excited because he didn’t expect someone with such a high degree as me to be willing to do this, and he often helped me as much as he could.

This charging station was recommended to me by him. It is not far from my house, and I can often meet him when charging. I also took out the cloth in the car, wiped the car, and chatted with him.

You, a sports car doesn’t suffer in the summer, but in the winter, just cleaning it will freeze you to death. Every winter is the hardest time for me. When I get in the car in the morning, it’s freezing cold, and the steering wheel is as cold as a popsicle. That’s nothing, the most painful thing is washing the car.

You can’t do it without washing, and you know the quality of our environment. One day, the car is full of dust. But washing the car is expensive, think about it, there is a biting cold wind outside, and I have to wash the rag in ice water. Wet hands hold the rag that freezes and hardens immediately and wipe the iron bumps…

Li Wenwu’s pained expression transported me into the cold mornings he had experienced.

A day in the life of a ride-hailing driver

Driving in winter is also very painful. It takes a lot of electricity to turn on the air conditioner. Now charging for two hours a day is enough to run for a day, but in winter, the capacity of the battery itself is not as high as in summer.

"Then what do you do? Others don’t." I think Li Wenwu is used to saving himself, so he is reluctant to turn on the air conditioner.

No, no, no, a lot of drivers in the group are like that. We just wear more clothes. It’s really cold, or when a passenger asks to turn on the air conditioner, we turn it on to warm up, but turn it off to warm ourselves up.

You know 972 in the group (many people in the WeChat group of online taxi drivers call each other by their license plate numbers), right? That old guy’s new energy car can only run 276 kilometers when fully charged. In winter, he wears two pairs of cotton pants and a military coat. He cries cold in the group every day, but he just doesn’t turn on the air conditioner.

Through digital technology implementation, ride-hailing platform companies precisely cut the gap between "effective" labor on the platform and other labor. The so-called "effective" labor is the labor of the driver in the process of sending passengers from the starting point to the destination. The ride-hailing platform charges passengers according to the mileage and time traveled, and shares it proportionally with the ride-hailing driver. Because this part of the labor directly generates profits for the W platform and generates income for the driver, it is recognized as "effective" labor by the platform and the driver.

Other labor, including charging, cleaning vehicles, finding orders, and driving from the driver’s location to the passenger’s boarding location, are all considered other labor by the platform, and the platform and passengers do not need to pay any fees to the driver.

From the perspective of ride-hailing drivers, they are operators who earn fees based on the results of their work. They regard unpaid labor such as charging, washing cars, searching for passengers, and even picking them up as inputs to earn rides paid by passengers. The goal is to obtain continuous "effective" labor and high income.

According to Li Wenwu’s words, it is "reluctant to bear children and can’t keep wolves". However, when they think their investment is greater than their income, their hearts will be unbalanced, and they will complain, resist or even "vote with their feet" towards passengers and platforms, and completely withdraw from the platform or the online car-hailing industry.

3. "Running an online car appointment was my most satisfactory choice at that time"

The W platform stipulates that after 4 hours of continuous service, drivers need to take a 20-minute break. Because the number of orders per day and the service time of each order are different, the first mandatory break is generally between 11:30 am and 3:00 pm.

Li Wenwu adjusts his meals, toilets and vehicle charging time to this time period. In his words, "people are alive and need to adapt to the working environment."

A day in the life of a ride-hailing driver

Working on a ride-hailing platform, the two most important physiological needs to be addressed are eating and going to the toilet, and his adaptation strategy is the biscuits he brings in the morning and the empty drink bottle next to his feet. When he is hungry, he will eat biscuits between orders to satisfy his hunger; and when he wants to pee and can’t find a toilet or parking space, the drink bottle becomes an essential tool for his emergency.

At first, I was really embarrassed to pee in the car. But once the system orders were sent one after another. At that time, I wanted to go to the toilet and was afraid that there would be no order after going offline, so I was reluctant to turn off the system. I kept running until I completed 5 orders in a row. I was so suffocated that I peed for a full minute. After that time, I let go. The living can’t be suffocated by pee.

The car is not only his means of production, but also his place of reproduction.

"I’m near the train station, and my brothers in the neighborhood are coming to have dinner together." He called out to other ride-hailing drivers in the neighborhood. It just so happened that I had just dropped off a passenger at the train station. So I replied in the group, "Get up, I just dropped off the passenger, and now I’m looking for you."

The lunch period is the peak time for consumers to use the car, and it is also the reward time for my "time-limited order award". Driven by the bonus, I kept finishing the order, and I was also reluctant to go offline to eat. The order to send passengers to the train station was the last order of my "time-limited order award", so seeing Li Wenwu’s call in the group, I decided to have dinner with Li Wenwu, and by the way, I talked about why he chose to be a ride-hailing driver.

We met at a noodle restaurant next to a charging station. We each ordered a bowl of noodles, and to my surprise, his appetite was similar to mine. "Why are you eating so little?" I asked him.

"In the past few years, the sports car has eaten irregularly, which has damaged the stomach. I can’t eat much, but I don’t eat much. I have acid reflux from eating too much," he explained. Following this topic, I learned about his process and motivation for engaging in online car-hailing drivers.

A day in the life of a ride-hailing driver

Li Wenwu started working as a ride-hailing driver in May and June 2015. He previously worked as a chef at a real estate project site, working hours from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm, and earning more than 5,000 yuan.

This kind of working hours and income made him a little embarrassed, on the one hand because the job was very cost-effective, that is, the work was relatively easy, and the total income was considered medium in T city. But on the other hand, the time utilization rate of this job was not high, that is, outside the 5-hour working hours, Li Wenwu could not cash in when he had time.

5,000 yuan sounds like a lot, but I was not married at the time, and I was a foreigner, so I needed to earn money to buy a house and settle down in T City. Now that I don’t have a house, which girl is willing to work with you? My parents can’t help much, so I have to rely on myself? The salary of the chef is much higher, and I am reluctant to give up, but the time after get off work is a waste for me, so I want to find a part-time job to earn some money to buy a house. But after looking for a while, I didn’t find a suitable one, mainly because the time is not suitable, so it is very embarrassing.

When Li Wenwu was frustrated that he couldn’t find a suitable part-time job opportunity, a friend of his recommended him to open an online car-hailing on the W platform. Anyway, he couldn’t find a suitable part-time job opportunity, so Li Wenwu decided to "treat a dead horse as a living horse doctor". He took a deep breath and continued, 2015-2017 sports cars on the platform are very easy.

One was because of the intense competition between platforms, and the subsidies of various platforms. For example, the order flow during the peak period was 1.4-1.5 times that of the peak period, and there were additional cash rewards after completing a certain order volume. He downloaded many platforms on his mobile phone, and he could go to whichever platform had more rewards.

Second, because each platform has relatively few control dimensions for drivers, it is mainly managed according to the evaluation results of passengers. Therefore, online ride-hailing drivers only need to ensure the quality of service without worrying about orders, and can freely flow between platforms and occupations.

The third reason was that most of the drivers on the platform were part-time drivers, so in the case of insufficient supply of drivers, the order volume of each driver was very sufficient. In the past few years of good running, Li Wenwu’s monthly part-time income on the platform could be "easily six or seven thousand".

When the subsidies were at their craziest, some people earned over 10,000 yuan a month by swiping orders. Of course, I didn’t catch up with that period, but when I started taking orders, there were also a lot of subsidies. I ran sports cars after get off work and before work every day, as long as the star rating was high, there would be orders online. At that time, I only ran five or six hours a day, and the running water was about 300 yuan, so I was not tired at all. I didn’t run when I didn’t want to, and the order volume didn’t change when I went online again.

He recalled the experience with a smug smile.

A day in the life of a ride-hailing driver

"Then your two jobs add up to a monthly salary of tens of thousands."

I can’t see it! It’s hard for me to imagine that the down payment on my house was earned in those two years. When I was 16 years old (2005), I came to T City from my hometown. At that time, because I was young and did not graduate from junior high school, my first job in T City could only start as a restaurant courier, with a monthly salary of only about 300 yuan. After a few months, I quit because I fell out with the foreman. Later, I worked as a courier, room attendant, temple painter, Baijiu salesperson, and you know, a construction site chef.

I like free work, I don’t want to be controlled, and I don’t want to see the face of the leader. At that time, I earned more by driving a ride-hailing car part-time, and I was not tired. I thought that my income would be higher after full-time work. After the dissolution of the construction site project department, I didn’t look for another job and worked as a ride-hailing driver full-time. So, running a ride-hailing car was my most satisfactory choice at that time.

Since the beginning of 2018, Li Wenwu has changed from a part-time driver to a full-time online ride-hailing driver running the W platform. From 2017 to 2020, many online ride-hailing drivers in T City have switched from part-time to full-time, and they mainly take orders on the W platform…

4. "If you run again, you will go home to see your son. "

During the meal and chat, I saw that he was tired, so I asked him to go back to the car to rest. He sighed and said, "No, it’s already 3:30 pm, I have to hurry up and drive." We got up and walked from the noodle shop towards the charging station. On the way, I told him to rest more and pay attention to his health. He told me that he couldn’t stop, and he didn’t dare to stop because his car and mortgage payments for this month had not been paid.

The T municipal government began to govern the online car-hailing industry in the first half of 2017, formulating and issuing the "Implementation Rules for the Management of Online Booking Taxi Business Services in T City". In the second half of 2019, new energy vehicles were used as a hard indicator for applying for "car licenses", that is, only new energy vehicles that meet policy standards can obtain "car licenses".

Since you chose this job, it is illegal for you not to abide by the national policy, and the platform no longer gives orders to’non-compliant ‘drivers during the peak period. So, I bought a’compliance car’ with a down payment of 50,000 yuan, and the monthly payment was 3,500 yuan. From the moment I bought the car, I was’tethered ‘to this car. Every day when I open my eyes, I am in debt, and if I don’t have a sports car, I will lose money inside and outside, which forces me to go online every day to take orders.

In addition to the vehicle loan, there are also GPS, video surveillance equipment and alarm devices, docking fees, operating deposits, business operation insurance, vehicle repair and maintenance costs, charging fees, parking fees, and traffic tickets. These costs are spread out to about 150 yuan to 180 yuan per day.

That is to say, I work for others for the first five or six hours, and earn the rest of the time by myself. So, even if I don’t want a sports car and want to take a break, I have to run enough 180 yuan before resting. "He said with a wry smile as he walked:" Don’t look at how much we earn, but after removing all the costs, the income is not high. Therefore, in order to make more income, I can only rely on time to’boil ‘.

Making money to buy a house and pay off the mortgage is another reason that compels Li Wenwu to work hard. He said that as a person who did not graduate from junior high school and came to work in T City from the countryside, buying a house and settling down in T City was a distant and difficult dream for him to achieve. But his job as a ride-hailing driver gave him a chance to realize his dream. In early 2018, after working part-time as a ride-hailing driver for three years, he used the 300,000 yuan he had accumulated to make a down payment and bought a house of about 70 square meters with a loan. He told me that he was very grateful to the W platform and that his work on the W platform helped him own a house in T City.

As we talked, we went to his car, and he quickly unplugged the charging gun, put the plug on the charging pile, and said to me: "I made 350 yuan in the morning, and then ran home to see my son. I slept in the same bed as him, but he hadn’t seen me for more than ten days."

A day in the life of a ride-hailing driver

After saying goodbye to me, he swiped his face to verify and started taking orders online like in the morning. I looked at the shadow of his car in the distance and silently thought that car loans and housing loans are like mountains, "oppressing" online ride-hailing drivers to flow "desperately" and increasing their income through "self-exploitation" to support their families.

At 9:30 PM, Li Wenwu said in the group that he had earned 570 yuan and was ready to collect the car and go home.

"If you can pick up the drop-in order, you can break 600 yuan today, but if you can’t pick it up, you have to go home. I miss my son. Maybe he hasn’t fallen asleep when he goes back now." As he spoke, he set up a drop-in order in the direction of home on the W platform. On the way, the W platform sent him an order of 35.7 yuan. Although picking up and sending passengers will be a bit confusing, he thought that the money is equivalent to 15 diapers for his son, so he took the order.

Li Wenwu said that the child was born as a "four-legged gold-swallowing beast", and he needed to keep "throwing money". The reason why Li Wenwu is willing to spend so much money for his son is that he has suffered the hardships of being uneducated, so he does not want to let the child repeat the same mistakes. Putting children in school at any cost seems to be an important way for the bottom workers to move to the top.

After dropping off the passengers, Li Wenwu decided to turn off the system and walk back. After parking the car, he limped home. Because of sitting in the car for a long time, he would have pain in his lower back and legs every night when he got home. It was 10:52 p.m. when Li Wenwu entered the house, and his son was already asleep. He looked at his sleeping son with regret. Although he lived under the same roof, he had not held his son or said a word to him for 10 days.

What makes him sad is that with the steering wheel in his hand, there is no way to accompany the child to grow up; and if he accompanies the child, there is no way to support the family.

To his relief, his wife was still waiting for him to come home and made him a bowl of steaming noodles. As he ate, he listened to his wife talking about taking care of her son during the day, but he was too tired to talk.

After eating, he transferred all the money he earned today to his wife, and he especially enjoyed the joy and admiration on her face at this time. After a hasty wash, he lay on his long-lost bed. At this time, the bell at home rang at 12:00 pm.

On this day, Li Wenwu’s online service lasted 12.6 hours, generating 605.7 yuan. This day is a very ordinary day in Li Wenwu’s 365 working days.

This article is excerpted from

This article is excerpted from

A day in the life of a ride-hailing driver

"Digital Labor"

Author: Tong Xin, Editor-in-Chief

Publisher: China Workers Publishing House

Subtitle: Freedom and Cage

Year of publication: 2022-7