Contractual jobs in government: Government’s own ‘gig workers’

Source: The post is based on the article “Government’s own ‘gig workers’” published in The Hindu on 2nd August 2022.

Syllabus: GS 3: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization, of resources, growth, development and employment.

Relevance: To understand the Contractual jobs in government.

News: While the Agnipath scheme has ignited a debate on the nature of jobs in the government, ‘temporary’ (gig) jobs have comprised the vast majority of available government employment. The modalities of “contractual” jobs in the public sector require a much deeper examination.

What are the types of outsourcing in government works?

Outsourcing has become the dominant mode of working in the government, from highly specialised tasks to the most routine ones. They may be classified into three categories; permanent, contractual and daily wagers.

There are two main methods to induct an ‘employee’ on contract in a government entity; 1) Directly on the payroll of the entity and, 2) Through a labour contractor or as part of any other contract entered into pursuant to a tender process. In this, the burden of responsibility is shifted to the contractor. This is the predominant mode of engaging contractual workers by the government.

In both cases, the costs and liabilities of the government entity are significantly reduced compared to a “permanent” position.

Read more: Gig Economy in India and the Issues faced by Gig Workers – Explained, pointwise
What are the advantages of contractual jobs in government?

1) It can augment the capacity of the government, particularly those works of the state that cater various services to people, 2) It creates a viable avenue of employment for India’s burgeoning working-age population.

What are the issues faced by contractual jobs in government?

Some common problems of contractual jobs also persist in government contractual jobs. These includes,

a) Non-payment of salaries for extended periods, b) Distorting of statutory deductions for the worker’s welfare such as provident fund (PF), employees’ state insurance (ESI), etc. by the labour contractor, and c) Uneven distribution of work vis-à-vis “permanent” employees.

The other challenges include a) Overwhelming reliance on contractors has undermined the functioning of government institutions, b) There is an endless chain of delegating tasks. At any time there are more people to get things done than those who could actually do things,

All this affects the quality of public service that is sought to be provided including sanitation, public transport, health, etc.

Note: The Ministry of Housing & Urban Affairs’ The Urban Learning Internship Program (TULIP) enables city authorities to directly engage a young workforce for a fixed term. 

Read more: Niti Aayog’s report on India’s gig economy: what has the think-tank recommended?
How to improve the condition of contractual jobs in government?

It is important to recognise contractual jobs in government. In line with the vision of social justice enshrined in the Constitution, affirmative actions should be taken to address the issues associated with contractual jobs. It is time for the government to take some concrete measures for its own “gig workers”.

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