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High demand, work control pulled in gig workers; now focus turns to rights

The surge in demand for gig workers, particularly in the shared services and logistics segments, in the aftermath of the pandemic led to mushrooming of job discovery platforms specifically targeting this area.

Written by Pranav Mukul | New Delhi |
Updated: December 28, 2021 12:33:45 pm
A Delhivery employee in New Delhi. (File photo)

The pandemic-led boom in demand for gig workers has had two significant implications on the contractual labour ecosystem — first, it has created new business models to cater to the growing requirement for on-demand staffing, and consequently it has once again put the spotlight on the labour codes that recognise gig workers and provide for a universal minimum wage, which are yet to be enforced.

The surge in demand for gig workers, particularly in the shared services and logistics segments, in the aftermath of the pandemic led to mushrooming of job discovery platforms specifically targeting this area. Gurugram-based startup Gigforce launched last year as a B2B company offering on-demand staffing services to companies in the logistics segment. The startup provides these services to companies including Delhivery, Grofers, Grab, Flipkart, Ecom Express, Park+, and Shadowfax. The startup, operating in over 100 cities, is planning to expand to the professional services segment to offer on-demand staffing solutions to companies needing skilled labourers in the appliance repair space.

In August 2020, Google announced the India launch of its Kormo Jobs app to connect job seekers with opportunities in industries like on-demand businesses, retail and hospitality. The platform was initially piloted in Bangladesh, then expanded to Indonesia where job-seekers reported that “finding entry-level and part-time jobs is confusing and difficult, especially when you don’t have much in the way of work experience, professional contacts or resources”.

According to industry estimates, India’s gig workforce comprises 15 million workers employed across industries such as software, shared services and professional services. This number is expected to grow to around 24 million in the near-medium term and to 90 million in the long term, as per a report earlier this year by the Boston Consulting Group.

Speaking to The Indian Express, Gigforce co-founder and CEO Chirag Mittal said, “We saw a lot of people coming to gig because they lost their jobs or businesses because of Covid-19. In our research, we found there were many people who weren’t just having jobs but also those who were running small businesses — somebody had a shop, etc. These businesses got disrupted because of Covid-19 and these people were looking for an income source to sustain”.

 

“A lot of people turned to gig work as a result. They saw it as a short-term approach — that they’ll work in this for a year or two and when normalcy returns, they can go and start some business,” he said, adding that one of the primary reasons even those with full-time employment were looking at gig work for income was the control they had over their jobs. However, as the number of gig workers has grown over the years, especially with consumer internet companies like Zomato, Swiggy, Uber, Ola, Urban Company, etc, the workers have increasingly complained of fall in their incomes.

Last month, around 10,000 food delivery workers in Hyderabad threatened to strike, while in Gurgaon, beauticians and salon workers affiliated with Urban Company have been protesting outside the company’s office against proposed policy changes in the app, claiming it would impact their earnings.

This has brought spotlight to the yet-to-be-enforced labour codes cleared by Parliament in 2019 and 2020. The Code on Wages, 2019, provides for universal minimum wage and floor wage across organised and unorganised sectors, including gig workers. The Code on Social Security, 2020, recognises gig workers as a new occupational category. It defines gig worker as a person who performs work or participates in work arrangement and earns from such activities, outside of the traditional employer-employee relationship.

Mittal said, “It is actually a first step in getting better rights for gig workers. When the new labour code is rolled out, it will be a good first step in acknowledging gig workers and platform workers and towards enacting rules for them.”

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