Gig Workers

Context: Rajasthan government has recently announced the Rajasthan Platform-based Gig Workers (Registration and Welfare) Bill, 2023, which has stringent provisions against errant aggregators as well as various welfare policies.

Gig workers

Code on Social Security 2020 defines a gig worker as “a person who performs work or participates in a work arrangement and earns from such activities outside of traditional employer-employee relationship”. 

They can be broadly classified into platform and non-platform-based workers. Platform workers are those whose work is based on online software apps or digital platforms. Non-platform gig workers are generally casual wage workers and own account workers in the conventional sectors, working part-time or full time.

As per a NITI Aayog report, currently 7.7 million workers are engaged in the gig economy and the number is expected to increase to 23.5 million by the end of this decade (2029-30). 

Factors that aided the growth of Gig economy

  • Growing Digitialisation: As per a report of Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), there will around 900 million internet users in India by 2025. This enabled growth of e-commerce, digital payments and Platform based Gig economy.
  • Low barriers: Any individual merely armed with an internet-enabled smartphone and an asset – such as the tangible vehicle (motorised or even non-motorised) or the intangible skill of cooking or plumbing – can monetise their assets at will, to become platform workers. 
  • Growing preference for Gig workers: MNCs are preferring flexi-hiring to reduce costs and time and effectively curb operational expenses and manage time. 
  • Flexibility: The flexible (location and time) nature of gig economy offers gig employees more time to learning new skills than traditional workers. From a worker’s point of view, a gig economy can increase work-life balance over many traditional jobs that most millennials and GenZ seek.

Challenges faced by the Gig workers

  • Social security:  Platform workers in India are predominantly paid a piece rate (i.e., Per task) and are classified by the platforms as “Independent contractors”. As a result, workers do not benefit from labour regulations pertaining to wages, hours, working conditions, and the right to collective bargaining. 
  • Occupational Safety and Health Risks: ILO global surveys on freelance platforms reveal that workers in the app-based taxi and delivery sectors, particularly women, also face several occupational safety and health risks. 
  • Algorithmic control: Platforms are criticised for having opaque algorithms, imposing excessive control over their workers through “ratings-based reputation systems”, assigning “disproportionate power” to customers over workers, and causing significant risk to workers who are unfairly penalised based on customer feedback. opacity of algorithms spotlights the power asymmetry or imbalances between platforms and platform workers.  On the one hand, algorithmic management also raises the larger debate on privacy, data protection, and cybersecurity.
  • Skill mismatch: Varying degrees of skills mismatch can be observed on online web-based platforms. According to ILO surveys, workers with higher educational achievements are not necessarily finding work commensurate with their skills. 
  • Accessibility: Even though the gig economy, with the wide variety of employment options it offers, is accessible to all those who are willing to engage in such employment, access to internet services and digital technology can be a restrictive factor.  

Protection provided to Gig Workers under Labour codes

Labour Codes that seek to introduce Labour Reforms in India have legally acknowledged the presence of Gig Workers in the economy. For example, the Code on Social Security, 2020 provides for the registration of all the Gig workers. It calls upon the Central and State Governments to formulate schemes to ensure social security benefits such as Insurance for the Gig workers. It also empowers the Government to set up Social Security Funds for their benefit. The contribution to these funds may be funded from contributions of Centre, State and aggregator platforms such as Uber, Zomato etc.

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