The future?of the gig workers

“Gig economy”, “Gig workers” have been buzzing the media platforms in the recent past along with the pandemic outbreak. There has been much discussion around the emergence and the future of gig work as a career option. Even, there were opinions the gig shift will shake the conventional organization structures. Such prediction was due to gig economy gaining impetus along with a transforming future of work that push the adoption of newer technologies, processes, and tools to get the best out of the change.

On the contrary, I came across a news piece that brought to light the inappropriate conduct of the aggregator app that connected service professionals such as housekeeping and other household services, repair technicians with their customers. This again was a “Gig” work that initially shone as a saviour out of a mundane permanent employment that paid less (but regular).

Later, when the app or the platform started imposing commission rates to strike the deal, penalties on cancellations and rating pressures hit the gig workers’ income, and there broke-out, perhaps the first women-led gig workers’ strike in India. The other concern is that the service provider platform has been refusing to absorb the service providers as its employees.

This case raises some concerns with regard to the gig workers’ future rather than that of the gig work itself; though there are less barriers to gain entry, with these gigs or platforms having the capability to create new and customized work arrangements, particularly for certain workers, for example, women, differently abled persons, they are teeming with challenges too.

Similarly, digital labour platforms extend varying levels of liberty and agility in working conditions, but workers lose out on the advantages of conventional workplaces like wage protection and standardization, paid leaves, and collective bargaining, among others.

Wait! Let’s see what the ILC has to say. In the International Labour Conference, ILC espoused the ILO’s Centenary Declaration that emphasised the necessity to react to the challenges and opportunities has been working on gig and platform linked issues, for fostering continued, all-encompassing, and sustainable fiscal growth, full and fruitful employment, and decent work for all.

Gig work sports different faces in different places. In developed countries, gig work complements the primary income of a worker, whereas in developing countries, gig work happens to be the primary source of income. However, in India gig work providing platforms were resorted to, was due to the dearth of alternate opportunities, and the lucrative monetary benefits.

With the recent case against the gig work providing platform mentioned afore, there arise several questions with respect to:

  1. Gig workers falling under the unorganized sector
  2. Being used irrationally for alarmingly less pay
  3. Being denied of the labour rights that a regular full-time employee may enjoy.

The question of availing the labour rights is a different issue, when the primary human rights of expressing grievances to the employer is at stake. Whom should the gig workers look up to in case of grievances, denial of or delay in response, is a question that needs deliberation!

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