Divisions of labour in the Airbnb economy. Presentation at the Platform Urbanism Symposium in Graz

Between 4 an 6 March, the “Smart City” project group at the University of Graz organized the Online Symposium Platform Urbanism – Towards a technocapitalist transformation of European cities? The symposium brought together researchers whose work (from different perspectives) examines “the significance of changing everyday practices and power shifts brought about by the expansion of platform operators into all areas of urban life (Barns 2019), such as household services, food delivery and mobility”. I delivered a presentation in  the “Housing and (reproductive) labour” session. In my talk I elicited the role of short term rental platform Airbnb in stabilising, normalizing, and transforming gender relations by making visible the scope, scale and division of housework and hospitality within “Airbnb-ed” homes. Drawing on interviews with Airbnb hosts in respectively Bulgaria, Denmark, Ghana and the Netherlands over the past 5 years, I presented preliminary findings on the social conditions under which Airbnb work is carried out. This study questions who does what and when in this platform economy, and how housework and hospitality are combined with social reproductive functions and other forms of (un)paid work. In this project I draw on feminist theories to highlight the gendered nature of the separation between “work” and “nonwork” within this platform economy. It also develops dialogues with ongoing debates about the precarious, irregular, underpaid and highly gendered nature of tourism work and hospitality.

I hope to publish the results of this study in the upcoming year!