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India’s Gig Economy and Quality Jobs
• Gig worker is a person who works temporary jobs typically in the service sector as an independent contractor or freelancer. They have freedoms as compared to full-timers: setting their own hours, working from home, being their own bosses.
• They enter into formal agreements with on-demand companies to provide services to the company’s clients.
• In this article, we shall particularly discuss about the delivery agents of various e-commerce companies.
• Various issues faced by the gig workers are:
• Harsh working conditions
• Quality of work and the temporary nature of engagement
• Absence of a social security net
• Long hours
• Delayed pay-outs
• Pressure to maximize speed of delivery (at the risk of road accidents)
Role of E-Commerce Sector:
• E-commerce in India is a nascent industry that is probably less than 13 years old.In this short period, it has captured the collective imagination of the nation.The covid-19 crisis has accelerated its adoption, and even die-hard fans of shopping at a physical store have switched to shopping online.
• The bigger an industry gets, and the more successful it is perceived to be, the more responsible and thoughtful it needs to be in everything it does.
• Some of the concerns are fair and call for introspection on the part of e-commerce companies.
• There is a rising demand for regulation of the gig economy created by them.
• Anyone complaining about the quality of jobs being created by the e-commerce industry probably needs to spend some time understanding the history of job creation in India.
• India is a demographically youthful nation, and every year between 17 and 20 million people look for jobs.
• This includes around 5 million people who are abandoning highly exploitative and less remunerative farm jobs every year to find employment in other sectors, mostly in the nearest urban districts.
• The IT and business process outsourcing industry has less than 200,000 jobs a year during its 25 years of existence. This is just a minuscule 1% of the total number of jobs that need to be created.
• According to CSO, only about 17% of India’s workers are regular wage earners and less than 23% of Indian households have a regular wage earner.In other words, 77% of our households did not have a steady flow of income.Self-employed (46%) and casual labour (33%) together account for nearly 80% of the workforce and claimed to earn less than ₹10,000 per month.These are the realities that cannot be ignored.
• The new-age platforms have done is nothing short of a miracle both in terms of creating jobs as well as paying a fair wage.
• It can be well established that it has provided a better remedy for unemployment in India.
• Neither skill nor knowledge is enough to ensure one generates income.Efficient marketplace which are enabled by technology, matters.
• A startup such as the Urban Company is an example of a technology-powered marketplace for common services such as plumbing, carpentry, beauty, and house-cleaning, among others.
• They brought consumers and suppliers of services (based on skills) on a common platform and made the whole process of matching demand and supply pretty seamless.
• A consumer of a service is willing to pay more for better quality of service if there is a consistent and reliable process of evaluating the capability of service providers.
• Most of these workers are always self-employed and even with these platforms, they operate in a gig mode which isn’t structurally different.
• Youth from rural India had been joining the Ola and Uber platforms in large numbers, many of whom were either unemployed or heavily under-employed.
• When skilling is voluntary and driven by a free market mechanism, the outcomes are magical.
• These platforms did ‘industrialize’ the services—industrialization allowed effortless consumption and created structured mechanisms to scale services and service capabilities.
• The technology enabled markets resulted in ‘new consumption’ which, in turn, led to creation of more goods and service providers.
• As far as the e-commerce industry is concerned, there are several obvious lessons that can contribute towards its growth, going ahead. Also, it is not fair to paint the entire industry as exploitative or be unduly critical of the gig model which is actually a very good model.
• Many of the gig workers themselves would be reluctant to take up full time and fixed salaried jobs. Pushing for premature regulation could be lethal.And finally, it is unrealistic to expect the e-commerce industry to create jobs that are probably as well paying like the IT industry.
• Creating high-paying jobs was never easy and will never be easy.Nor is it realistic that everyone, or even a majority of the 20 million, will be employed in high-paying jobs.