Among sectors that were immensely impacted by the pandemic were the platform economy and the on-demand gig workers. In India, a large section of its urban population is currently engaged with the platform economy in one way or the other. The gig economy comprises of people who work on freelance or contract basis. These individuals are paid per job, or ‘gig’, as opposed to receiving a regular salaried employee. In the absence of proper government data available on gig workers in India, a report surfaced in January 2019, indicating high unemployment of the country. However, NITI Aayog have dismissed the findings stating that platform-based companies had alone generated more than 2 million jobs. It is estimated that the number of service providers involved with various platforms has increased from 8.5 million in 2016 to 11.7 million in 2017 and 15 million in 2018.
During the pandemic, the platform economy firms such as Uber, Ola Zomato, Swiggy, Flipkart, Airbnb supported the frontline workers in various ways. Some of these firms had to do a huge lay-off during the pandemic but have stood the times. Recognising the need of the hour, in September 2020, the Indian Parliament has passed a new labour code— “The Code on Social Security 2020”. This code absorbs the existing 29 labour laws, to acknowledge the platform and gig workers as new occupational categories in the country.
On 15 November, the Ministry of Labour and Employment released the draft rules for invoking the Code on Social Security passed by the parliament in September. Gig companies will now be asked to make a contribution towards social security funds set up for platform workers. The code will also have enabling provisions to allow self-employed workers to make voluntary contribution towards the Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) schemes. Platform workers are also eligible for certain benefits like maternity leaves, life and disability cover, old age protection, provident fund, employment injury benefits, and more.
The future of Gig economy
Gig workers are adopted and rewarded based on their skill to deliver which motivates them to deliver with creative thinking and be self-reliant. The future of gig work holds great potential because it tends to be more meaningful and rewarding in more than just the monetary aspect. Additionally, the biggest advantage of gig work lies in its integration with technology because, the future of India’s start-ups and its gig economy lies in digital innovations. The government too has been endeavouring to democratise digital platforms across sectors.
A major part of the economy, gig aspired people are now exploring various needs of the economy and turning to professions in beauty, fitness, plumbing, electrical repairs, etc. This business model allows for the service providers to communicate with the end-users directly through the app according to their terms and conditions. This opens up a world of opportunities for the freelance workforce.
To conclude, the gig economy has certainly led to the transformation of India’s work culture, with enhanced flexibility and autonomy, overriding the traditional relationship shared between an employer and employee. In a developing country like India, the potential advantages of the gig economy are going to be numerous. Particularly for women, it portends to be an important step towards professional and financial freedom.
Workplaces are changing and so is the way people function at workplaces. It won’t be long before the gig economy becomes the new normal and working full-time will become a rarity.