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Working Conditions for India’s Gig Workers


The fifth annual study conducted across 12 e-commerce platforms by Fairwork India, presents a grim picture of working conditions for India’s gig workers.


GS III: Indian Economy

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Key Highlights of the Study
  2. Minimum Wage Policy in India
  3. Who is a ‘gig worker’?

Key Highlights of the Study:

The study on gig work and workers’ rights brings to light several significant findings and issues, including:

Minimum Wage Policies:

  • Only three gig platforms, namely Bigbasket, Flipkart, and Urban Company, have implemented minimum wage policies to guarantee that workers earn at least the local minimum wage.

Living Wage Concerns:

  • None of the platforms studied guarantee that their workers earn a living wage, indicating challenges in ensuring income adequacy for gig workers.

Alienation and Discrimination:

  • The study delves into how working conditions can lead to feelings of alienation, often stemming from various forms of discrimination.
  • These discriminatory factors include caste, class, gender, and religion, emphasizing the need for addressing and eliminating such biases in gig work.

Insurance and Compensation:

  • Some platforms provide accident insurance coverage and compensation for income loss caused by accidents or medical reasons, indicating efforts to support workers’ well-being.

Contract Clarity and Data Protection:

  • Companies have introduced measures to enhance contract clarity, protect worker data, and establish processes for addressing worker concerns, including procedures for appealing disciplinary actions.

Recognition of Worker Representation:

  • Notably, no platform received recognition for “Fair Representation,” suggesting a lack of acknowledgment for collective worker bodies, despite an increase in worker collectivization in recent years.
  • This points to a need for recognizing and respecting the collective voice of gig workers.

Minimum Wage Policy in India

The Minimum Wage Policy in India is governed by the Code of Wages Act 2019. Here are the key provisions and components of the Minimum Wage Policy in India:

Code of Wages Act 2019:
  • The Code of Wages Act 2019 aims to modernize and update the existing labor laws in India, making them more accountable and transparent.
  • It introduces provisions for minimum wages and labor reforms, ensuring uniformity in wage-related matters across sectors and wage ceilings.

Universalization of Provisions:

  • The Act universalizes the provisions related to minimum wages and timely payment of wages to all employees, regardless of their sector or income level.
  • This move is intended to guarantee the “Right to Sustenance” for every worker and strengthen the legal protection of minimum wages.

Floor Wages:

  • The Central Government is authorized to establish floor wages, considering the living standards of workers. Different floor wages may be set for various geographical areas.
  • It is important to note that the minimum wages fixed by either the central or state governments must be higher than the floor wage.

Fixation of Floor Wage:

  • The Code on Wages Rules, 2020 outlines the concept of a floor wage, which provides the central government with the authority to determine floor wages based on the minimum living standards of workers.
  • The floor wage serves as a baseline wage below which state governments cannot set minimum wages.

Geographical Variation:

  • The Wage Code permits the fixation of different floor-level wages for different geographical areas.
  • However, this has raised concerns about the potential relocation of capital and industries from areas with higher wages to regions with lower wage standards.

Who is a ‘gig worker’?

  • Gig workers are those who work outside the traditional employer-employee relationship.
  • There are two groups of gig workers – platform workers and non-platform workers.
  • Gig workers who use online platforms are called platform workers, while those who work outside of these platforms are non-platform workers.
  • Gig workers have characteristics of both employees and independent contractors and do not fit into any rigid categorization.
  • As a result, gig workers have limited recognition under current employment laws and fall outside the ambit of statutory benefits.
Concerns related to gig workers and the proposed labour codes in India:

Limited benefits and protections:

  • Gig workers are excluded from the benefits and protections offered by the other proposed labour codes, such as minimum wage and occupational safety.
  • They are also not allowed to create legally recognised unions.

Lack of effective remedy:

  • Gig workers are excluded from accessing the specialised redressal mechanism under the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947.
  • This denies them an effective remedy for grievances against their employers.

No right to collective bargaining:

  • Gig workers do not have the right to collective bargaining, which is a fundamental principle of modern labour law crucial to safeguard the rights of workers.

Poor working conditions:

  • A 2022 report by Fairwork India highlighted the deplorable working conditions of digital platform workers in India.
  • There is a need for statutory affirmation of the rights of gig workers.

Delay in implementation:

  • The proposed labour codes have received the assent of the President, but are still awaiting implementation three years on.
  • The Centre has cited the delay in framing of rules by the States as the reason for the delay.

Measures to address the issues related to gig workers:

  • Evaluating scale of Gig economy: As of now there exists no authoritative estimate on the total number of gig workers in India, though the centralised nature of the platforms, and the larger platform labour market should make the collating of this data relatively straightforward for the Labour Ministry.
  • Making regulations related to Gig economy: A more viable strategy then would involve conditional government partnerships with platforms under some of its flagship schemes. Here, the successful pilot of Swiggy’s Street Food Vendors programme under the PM SVANidhi, or PM Street Vendor’s Atma Nirbhar Nidhi scheme, may prove to be an illustrative example.

-Source: The Hindu

December 2023