Home Institution

University of Puget Sound

Publication Date

Spring 2023

Program Name

Vietnam: Culture, Social Change, and Development


Woven into the very fabric of urban life in Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam is commuting via motorcycle (Vietnamese: xe máy). The versatility of xe máy can be witnessed in the surge of rush hour traffic, the shipment of a great variety and quantity of goods, and the crunch of people in order to get the whole family atop a single bike. Due to xe máy as the primary way much of the population gets around, Ho Chi Minh City’s transportation infrastructure and traffic patterns are highly conducive to this method of transit. Resulting from these favorable conditions, a multitude of ride-hailing digital applications have emerged, the most dominant of Ho Chi Minh City’s market being Grab Holdings Inc. This study aims to reveal the inner workings of Grab’s labor force through a qualitative and quantitative investigation of the factors which influence individuals to drive a motorcycle for the company, the economic sustainability of the profession, and the overall wellbeing of Grab drivers across the city. Using a multi-method approach of survey research, interviews, participant observation, and photography, the daily lives of Grab’s operators were able to be recognized and cataloged. This glimpse into driver livelihoods reveals the demanding and sometimes dangerous nature of their work, yet also brings to light a compelling degree of autonomy afforded by their designation as independent contractors.


Asian Studies | Labor Economics | Social and Cultural Anthropology | Transportation | Urban Studies and Planning | Work, Economy and Organizations


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