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NITI Aayog launches report on gig economy in India: Key takeaways

The report looks at the present size of the sector, its job generation potential, and also offers recommendations for growth.

June 27, 2022 / 11:50 PM IST
Image Source: ShutterStock

Image Source: ShutterStock

India’s gig workforce, estimated to be at 77 lakh in 2020-21, is expected to go up to 2.35 crore by 2029-30, according to a NITI Aayog report. The report, titled 'India's Booming Gig and Platform Economy' looks at the present size of the sector, its job generation potential, and also offers recommendations for the sector. As written in the Code on Social Security, the NITI Aayog report also recommends extending social security measures to gig workers and their families. The Code on Social Security was the first time gig and platform workers were recognised by the government, which sought to give workers social security benefits.

 The report defines a gig worker as “someone who engages in income-earning activities outside of a traditional employer-employee relationship, as well as in the informal sector”. Additionally, it defines those working with platforms such as Ola, Uber, Dunzo, Swiggy, Zomato and Urban Company as platform workers. It even goes on to term platform labour as the “Fourth Industrial Revolution”.

It is important to note that while the NITI Aayog has made several recommendations and this is the first such report that the government’s think tank has studied and published, these are not binding on platform companies.

Here are the key takeaways: 

> An estimated 68 lakh gig workers were there in 2019-20, forming 2.4 percent of the non-farm workforce or 1.3 percent of the total workers in India. In 2020-21, this went up to 77 lakh or, 2.6 percent of the non-farm workforce or 1.5 percent of the total workforce in India. By 2029-30, it is expected to go up to 2.35 crore, or 6.7 percent of the non-agricultural workforce and 4.1 percent of total workers.

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Drivers and sales persons accounted for more than 52 percent of the gig workers in 2019-20.

The report however notes that this is an estimation, and there is no official data to authoritatively estimate the extent of gig work in the country “thereby rendering the gig workforce invisible.”

> When workers are classified by industries, the report said that 26.6 lakh gig workers were involved in retail trade and sales in FY20, and about 13 lakh were in the transportation sector. Roughly 6.2 lakh persons were in manufacturing and another 6.3 lakh in the finance and insurance activities.

As per the report, 47 percent of gig work currently is in medium skilled jobs, 22 percent in high-skilled, and about 31 percent in low-skilled jobs.

> Challenges for gig workers: Outlining challenges faced by gig workers in the country, the report says that accessibility makes gig work a largely urban phenomenon, as access to the internet and digital technology can be a restrictive factor.

Job and income insecurity, which is among the primary issues raised by gig workers, has been cited as a challenge as well as workers are not employees and hence do not receive income security and social protection. Along with it comes occupational safety and health risks including road safety, theft and physical assault, discrimination or harassment. This is amplified for women in app-based taxi work and delivery.

Another challenge listed is that workers may be under pressure due to algorithmic management practices and performance evaluation on the basis of ratings.

> Incentivising the platform economy: NITI Aayog suggests launching an initiative to accelerate platformisation, modeling it on schemes such as Startup India. It asks for regulations to be streamlined and simplified, and licensing requirements for aggregators to be reconsidered. In addition, the report suggests that entry barriers in mobility-based platform companies be eased. A point to be highlighted it asks for the the widespread adoption of hyperlocal deliveries using two-wheelers to be encouraged.

> In its recommendation to companies in the platform industry, it suggests that companies carry out gender sensitisation and accessibility awareness programmes for workers and their families, particularly to promote the rights of women and persons with disabilities. It also suggests partnering with various stakeholders to upskill women and disabled persons.

Another recommendation is that platforms institutionalise accessibility, diversity and inclusion with initiatives such as onboarding targets based on gender as well as hiring disabled persons.

> The report highlights that India requires a framework that balances the flexibility offered by platforms while also ensuring social security of worker. Currently, they work in a regulatory gray area.

Suggestions by NITI Aayog include paid sick leave, health access and insurance year-round, occupational disease and work accident insurance, retirement/pension plans and other contingency benefits, as well as supporting businesses and entrepreneurs that are associated with platforms. For supporting these businesses and entrepreneurs, it suggests extending interest-free business advances and delayed payback periods to protect gig workers, self-employed persons and small businesses who are associated with platforms.

> For the government, civil society, businesses and non-profits, Niti Aayog suggested universal coverage of platform workers through the Code on Social Security. It also recommended that skill gaps be bridged by carrying out assessments periodically and partnering with platform businesses for onboarding skilled women and persons with disabilities. It also suggests making aggregate data public to enable decision-making.
Haripriya Suresh
first published: Jun 27, 2022 07:50 pm
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