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Gig Workers and its skewed terms

  • IASbaba
  • October 8, 2020
  • 0
UPSC Articles
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ECONOMY/ GOVERNANCE/ RIGHTS

Topic: General Studies 2,3:

  • Fundamental Rights
  • Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation

Gig Workers and its skewed terms

Context: The new Code on Social Security allows a platform worker to be defined by their vulnerability — not their labour, nor the vulnerabilities of platform work.

What is Gig Economy?

  • A gig economy is a free market system in which temporary positions are common and organizations contract with independent workers for short-term engagements
  • Examples of gig employees in the workforce could include freelancers, independent contractors, project-based workers and temporary or part-time hires.

Do You Know?

  • Global Gig Economy Index report has ranked India among the top 10 countries.
  • The report says there has been an increase in freelancers in India from 11% in 2018 to 52% in 2019, thanks to various initiatives including Startup India and Skill India.

Issues of Gig Workers – Example of Swiggy (Food Delivery platform)

  • Swiggy workers have been essential during the pandemic.
  • They have faced a continuous dip in pay, where base pay was reduced from ₹35 to ₹10 per delivery order, despite braving against the odds of delivering during Pandemic
  • Stable terms of earning have been a key demand of delivery-persons 

Does new version of labour code offer any relief to Gig workers?

  • The three new labour codes passed by Parliament recently acknowledge platform and gig workers as new occupational categories in the making
  • Defining gig workers is done in a bid to keep India’s young workforce secure as it embraces ‘new kinds of work’, like delivery, in the digital economy.
  • In the Code on Social Security, 2020, platform workers are now eligible for benefits like maternity benefits, life and disability cover, old age protection, provident fund, employment injury benefits, and so on.

Issues with new labour codes for gig workers

  • Platform delivery people can claim benefits, but not labour rights. 
  • This distinction makes them beneficiaries of State programmes but does not allow them to go to court to demand better and stable pay, or regulate the algorithms that assign the tasks. 
  • This also means that the government or courts cannot pull up platform companies for their choice of pay, or how long they ask people to work.
  • The laws do not see them as future industrial workers.
  • They are now eligible for government benefits but eligibility does not mean that the benefits are guaranteed. Actualising these benefits will depend on the political will at the Central and State government-levels.
  • The language in the Code is open enough to imply that platform companies can be called upon tso contribute either solely or with the government to some of these schemes. But it does not force the companies to contribute towards benefits or be responsible for workplace issues.

Conclusion

  • There are no guarantees for better and more stable days for platform workers, even though they are meant to be ‘the future of work’.

Connecting the Dots:

  • Impact of AI on jobs
  • Skill India program

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