Over the past few years, an “instant delivery” activity has developed in large cities, via online platforms such as Uber Eats or Deliveroo. Although courier delivery services for parcels or food delivery exist for many years, this is a novel type of activity, characterized by tertiarization and digitalization. Employment status of delivery riders, who are massively self-employed and paid by platforms for each delivery they complete, is also novel, and can be regarded as “uberization”.
The first meal delivery platforms Uber Eats and Deliveroo were launched in Paris in 2015-2016, before spreading in other cities and being followed by other platforms such as Just Eat or Frichti. Even if this type of service is not yet profitable for the platforms, it is very popular among users. However, a certain social cost is associated with this success, for delivery riders who have to face difficult working conditions. This has quickly been noted in the media. Apart from journalistic investigations and information produced by the platforms themselves, there are very few available data to understand this novel activity.
That’s why the Gustave Eiffel University, Logistics City and ANR MOBS, together with 6t-bureau de recherche, decided to produce objective and quantified data on the profile and activity of delivery riders.
Since 2016, 6t and the Gustave Eiffel University, Chaire Logistics City and ANR MOBS explore the issue of delivery riders working for online platforms. This study, conducted in 2021 under the supervision of Laetitia Dablanc, is the fourth study carried out on this topic.
The study is based on a quantitative survey, with a sample of more than 500 delivery riders interviewed in the north-east area of Paris. Delivery riders have been interviewed using a face-to-face questionnaire, during February 2021.
The 2021 questionnaire includes several questions identical to those included in the 2020 questionnaire, allowing for comparison and identification of changes.
Delivery riders’ profile
Men are heavily overrepresented among instant delivery riders (93%), as well as young people (average age of 31) and unqualified people. Only 10% of riders have the French nationality.
In 2021, 18% of surveyed delivery riders are also students, a significant increase compared to 2020. Moreover, 12% of delivery riders combine it with another professional activity.
Regarding delivery riders’ labour status, 54% of them carry out their delivery activity as self-employed, 28% as employees and 11% as cooperators, a very significant increase compared to 2020.
Combining riders’ status and parallel activity (studies or other professional activity), the following typology can be used to analyse the results:
- Self-employed delivery riders: riders who are self-employed and for whom delivery is the only activity (41.4% of our sample)
- Employee delivery riders: riders who carry out delivery as employees (part-time or full-time) and for whom delivery is the only activity (17.8%)
- Other status delivery riders: riders whose sole activity is delivery and who are not self-employed nor employees, e.g. cooperators (12%)
- Delivery riders who combine it with another professional activity: riders who carry out another professional activity, regardless of the status under which they carry out their delivery activity (10.6%)
- Students delivery riders: riders who are currently studying, regardless of the status under which they carry out their delivery activity (18.2%)
Distribution of delivery riders according to the typology (total sample – n=517)
Delivery riders’ activity
Two thirds of surveyed riders carry out this activity for less than a year. Plus, delivery is the first professional activity carried out in France for more than a quarter of them, which reflects riders’ young age. Word of mouth plays a key role in the choice of the delivery activity: more than half of surveyed riders began delivery following advice from a friend or colleague.
For deliveries, the most common vehicle is bicycle, used by more than 46% of riders on the day of the survey. If 61% of bicycle delivery riders use their own vehicle, 39% of them use a shared bicycle, mainly an electric Vélib’. Bicycles are followed by moppeds, used by 36% of riders. To this regard, it should be noted that only a minority of mopped delivery riders own a transport license, which is necessary when a motorized vehicle is used to make deliveries.
Distribution of delivery riders according to the type of vehicle used (total sample – n=517)
On average, a delivery rider works 5 ½ days a week, nearly 7 hours a day, and makes 18 deliveries a day. These figures vary depending on the category of riders considered. Note that self-employed delivery riders work more days a week, and more hours a day, than other categories. Employee delivery riders make up the category which completes the highest number of deliveries a day.
Average number of deliveries per day (total sample – n=517)
Delivery riders earn very low income, with 80% or surveyed riders reporting they earn less than €1,500 per month from this activity. Using the numbers of hours spend making deliveries, these results suggest that delivery riders earn less than the French hourly minimum wage.
Delivery riders’ opinion
Although delivery riders appreciate the autonomy allowed by this activity, they deplore difficult working conditions, particularly regarding the risk of accident (a quarter of them have already had an accident while making deliveries), weather conditions and the physical dimension of the activity. Self-employed delivery riders make up the least satisfied category, while employees are the most satisfied.
The pandemic strongly impacted delivery riders’ daily life. First, the pandemic encouraged some of the survey respondents to begin this activity, especially students. More than half of surveyed delivery riders report that the pandemic worsened their working conditions. It also led to a decrease of the personal number of deliveries and of income. Riders working as employees seem to be less affected by the pandemic. The pandemic had therefore a negative impact on platform delivery riders, especially on self-employed riders. This already vulnerable population is thus made even more precarious, which raises issues regarding self-employed workers’ protection.
Pandemic’s impact on delivery riders’ working conditions (total sample – n=517)
 Dablanc L., et al. (2017) “The rise of on-demand ‘Instant Deliveries’ in European cities”, Supply Chain Forum: An International Journal, 18:4, 203-217, DOI: 10.1080/16258312.2017.1375375 ; URL: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/16258312.2017.1375375