Startups have been creating new jobs, but blue-collared workers do face a tough time in the Indian market.
Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced a slew of measures for the startup sector. The idea is to boost entrepreneurship and enable job creation. However, the key here is to note whether blue-collared jobs in these startups come with the same dignity of labour as a regular office job.
With the growth of the e-commerce industry in India in the past four to five years, there has been a rise in the new jobs on offer. Some of them include drivers, delivery executives, beautician, plumber, repair personnel, packing personnel and logistics personnel. However, the job is accompanied by the risks of low pay and fear of retrenchment.
There have been cases of individuals quitting high-paying jobs to become driver-partners for Uber or Ola. But, their work conditions are starkly different from those of other drivers who are not owners of their car.
A driver-partner has told Moneycontrol that the traffic conditions in Mumbai make the experience difficult.
“You reach the destination late usually. And, the system is such that, if you get a few bad ratings, it becomes difficult to survive. Also, once you rating drops below 4.5, the customer behaviour also changes,” he added.
Most of the blue-collared staff are also not on the same salaries as the regular staff. This comes with its own set of problems. For instance, there is a clear discrimination at the workplace setting itself. The seating is separate and, often, they are required to eat separately.
Dignity of labour has been a persistent issue not just in startups but also in the larger companies. However, considering the number of blue-collared workers in the new-age firms is much higher, the issue is more prominent in these firms.
Startups have taken early steps to ensure that their employees are treated with respect. Food delivery platform Swiggy, for instance, launched a campaign in 2018 that talked about addressing their delivery executives by their names. “Don’t call them Swiggy,” said the ad.
Even where the salaries have gone up, the perception has not changed. A suburban Mumbai-based AC repair executive has told Moneycontrol that, while he manages to earn Rs 25,000 a month on an average, customer are still wary of letting him into the house at odd hours or make him sit on the floor.
Startups could take steps like penalising and black-listing vendors or users for inappropriate behaviour.It is still early days in India. Working as a delivery boy or at a grocery store would be respectable in markets like the US or parts of Europe. But, it is still considered a menial job in India. While job creation and fillip to small enterprises are necessary, it is critical that dignity of labour is ensured.