The global economy has taken to the gig economy in a big way. Almost a no-strings-attached affair, gig economies are gaining popularity as they benefit both employers and the employed. Employers don’t need to worry about providing steady, year-round salaries. They can employ workers on an assignment basis. On the other hand, gig professionals are different from contractual workers, they are more like free-lancers. This gives them the liberty to be associated with more than one company or project simultaneously. A study conducted by the software firm, Intuit, predicts that by 2020, the world’s largest economy - the US, will have 40% independent workers.
Big corporate firms are increasingly looking at gig workers for their requirements. According to a report, 72% of gig projects were reported in FY 2019 as compared to 52% in FY 2017. According to the ‘Professional Gig Economy 2018-19 Report Card’, majority of the professional gig economy segments have grown double in last two years till FY 2019.
Why the preference?
Gig workers in most cases are not bound to attend office physically; rather they are allowed to work from home. Maneesha Jha Thakur, CHRO, Emami Agrotech Limited said at the recently held ‘HR Conclave - Transforming Workplace: Now & Future, 2019’ organised by CII, “The gig economy is not only better suited for companies it is also being increasingly preferred by women due to their lifestyle needs.” Additionally, this structure enables people to get the scope of assured income without changing their location.
On the employer company’s perspective, Aditya Shirole, Co-founder and COO, GigIndia said, “Amazon and Swiggy are among the companies that are using lesser infrastructure for their businesses. They are appreciating this model.” The need for these companies have transcended from brick and mortar offices to digital spaces. In such a scenario, gig workers are much in demand. Additionally, these companies are highly depen-
dent on gig workers for the last mile linkage. Currently, these online companies are also offering a basic accidental coverage for their workers to give them a certain level of security.
India currently has a large unemployed population. According to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), “The urban unemployment rate for October 2019 stood at 8.9%, slightly higher than the rural unemployment rate of 8.3%.”
In this situation, if India’s young workforce moves towards the gig economy, it might lead to a situation of widespread insecurity. With the economy already in doldrums, the chances are high that young professionals will be pushed towards this structure due to absence of regular employment oppurtunities. In such a situation, they might be forced to work under exploitative conditions which would be quite different from the working conditions of developed economies.
Sahil Nayar, Senior Associate Director Human Resources, KPMG, said at the HR conclave, “There are dark and bright sides of the gig economy. But there is also a grey side. Workers are badly seeking job security.”
In India, the structure of the gig economy is yet to be formalised. In many cases, minimum wages, benefits of gratuity or Provident Fund (PF) are not being followed for gig workers. This is a cause of worry and there is an urgent need to formalise the gig segment.
Nominal scope for skill enrichment
Stability of learning and enrichment of skills is largely missing among gig workers. Ranjan Banerjee, Senior Vice President and Head, HR and IR, Jayshree Textiles (Aditya Birla Group) said, “In a country like India, our job descriptions are not based on the skills of the aspirants but on the educational qualifications they are holding. This needs to be changed - both for the employers and the employees.” Without scope for skill enhancement, gig workers are often stagnated and eventually pushed out of the periphery of corporate needs.
The central government has noticed this evolving trend and has addressed some of the issues in the ‘Code on Social Security’ under the section that deals with social security for unorganised workers. ‘The draft Code on Social Security’ published on September 17, 2019, notified the schemes that are meant for gig and platform workers. These include life and disability cover, health and maternity benefits and old age protection. The benefits have not been clearly defined and that has led to a certain degree of apprehensions. Many companies apprehend a hike in their operational costs once this code is implemented.