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Hannah Schilling: Navigating Uncertainty: Young Workers and Precarity in Berlin and Abidjan. [Abstract]

These days, many young urban dwellers work in precarious jobs to make a living, such as gig workers for digital platforms or informal traders for mobile communication companies. Their working conditions are characterized by temporary contracts, low salaries, and fiddly tasks. In what ways does gig work shape and enable transitions into adulthood? To answer this question, this article uses two unusual case studies – the making-do of young adults working respectively in the digital economy in Berlin and Abidjan. Instead of tracing individual trajectories against an ideal of stable employment as a marker for transitions into adulthood, we practice a Global Sociology through comparative analysis. We start from the context of Abidjan to focus on young dwellers’ practices of kinship. Based on in-depth interviews with young residents of Berlin and Abidjan, we reveal differences in the ways independence as an individual is expected in interpersonal relations and institutionalized redistributive practices. At the same time, we carve out similar mechanisms and, as such, overcome a Eurocentric analytical framework in which the majority world is described as “lacking in” or “a variation of” modern expectations about the role of paid work for life-course and youth transitions. Instead, the analysis shows the relevance of studying the realm of paid work as closely entangled with care relations.

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