In recent years, gig workers are more and more coming together to demand judicious wages and social security benefits. Moreover, the theme of discrimination and alienation often comes up in experiences shared by gig workers in the Indian economy that are presented as free of barriers produced by social identities such as age, caste, gender, and religion.
However, far from the truth, most digital labour platforms in India have been hesitant to adopt a minimum wage policy and provide other benefits to gig workers. The Fairwork India Ratings 2023: Labour Standards in the Platform Economy report drives home this point. While ride-hailing giant Ola and tech-enabled logistics company Porter scored zero on a scale of 1-10, Uber and Dunzo received only one point, according to the report, spearheaded by the Centre for IT and Public Policy (CITAPP) at International Institute of Information Technology Bangalore (IIIT-B), in association with Oxford University.
Of all the digital platforms evaluated by the Fairwork India Team, only BigBasket scored the highest point 6 out of 10 across five principles (fair pay, fair conditions, fair contract, fair management and fair representation) for gig workers.
The report examines the work conditions of platform workers on digital labour platforms in India. It evaluates 12 platforms offering location-based services in sectors such as domestic and personal care, logistics, food delivery, and transportation, in India.
The 12 platforms that were evaluated in the report included Amazon Flex, Bigbasket, BluSmart, Dunzo, Flipkart, Ola, Porter, Swiggy, Uber, Urban Company, Zepto and Zomato. Interestingly, this year, no platform scored more than six out of the maximum of ten points, and none scored all the first points across the five principles.
The key findings of the report reveal that Bigbasket, Flipkart, and Urban Company were the only platforms with a minimum wage policy to ensure that all their workers earn at least the hourly local minimum wage after factoring in work-related costs. “No platform made the second point of the Fair Pay principle, which requires platforms to provide sufficient evidence that workers earn at least the local living wage after work-related costs,” says the report.
On the fair conditions front, Amazon Flex, Bigbasket, BluSmart, Flipkart, Swiggy, Urban Company, Uber, Zepto and Zomato were awarded the first point for providing adequate safety equipment and periodic safety training to their workers. The only companies to receive a second point were Bigbasket, Swiggy, Urban Company, Zepto, and Zomato. These companies gave their employees free accident insurance, paid for lost wages when they couldn't work due to illnesses other than accidents, and made sure their status didn't suffer when they returned from a break after informing the platform in advance.
Among the 12 platforms, seven of them (BigBasket, BluSmart, Dunzo, Swiggy, Urban Company, Zepto, and Zomato) ensure the accessibility and comprehensibility of their contracts.
The fair management principle, which guarantees due process in decisions impacting employees, was observed in Amazon Flex, BigBasket, BluSmart, Flipkart, Swiggy, and Zomato. Meanwhile, BluSmart and Swiggy implemented policies prohibiting the discrimination of platform workers and institutionalised the implementation of routine, external audits to look for biases in their work allocation methods.
All 12 platforms chalked up zero in fair representation. "There was insufficient evidence from any platform that showed a willingness to recognise a collective body of workers," reveals the report.
“In a year that has seen the formulation of a significant regulation based on inputs from workers, [The Rajasthan Platform Based Gig workers (Registration and Welfare) Act, 2023], we hope that highlighting the experiences of workers will point to the structural changes that platforms, consumers and the State alike will need to undertake if the platform economy is to offer its workers decent work,” say Professors Balaji Parthasarathy and Janaki Srinivasan, the Principal Investigators of the team, along with researchers Mounika Neerukonda, Bilahari M, Aditya Singh, Raktima Kalita and Meghashree Balaraj.
Recently, Rajasthan passed a law that levies a 2% tax on earnings made by digital platforms that operate in the state The move, orchestrated by the Indian National Congress party, would be the first in the country and the tax would aid an estimated two million platform-based gig workers in the state with them receiving social security and welfare benefits.