Protecting gig workers

News: The Supreme Court recently made a significant intervention by admitting a public interest litigation from the Indian Federation of App-based Transport Workers. PIL seeks to classify gig workers as wageworkers entitled to social security and other employment benefits

Meanwhile, the Code on Social Security, which covered unorganised workers, gig workers and platform workers for the first time, is awaiting implementation.

Gig or contract employment is set to expand exponentially. According to the Boston Consulting Group, India’s gig economy could increase to 90 million jobs in the next eight to 10 years from about 24 million today.

Hence, ensuring their welfare will determine the health of India’s prosperous gig economy.

In this context, the code on social security has some provisions to address the issues related to the gig workers and platform workers.

Must Read: Social security for gig workers is essential
How the Code on Social Security aims to protect the interest of the gig workers and platform workers?

Firstly, it mandates the Centre to set up a social security fund for this category of workers in addition to separate funds by the states. Funds for such schemes are to involve contributions from the Centre, state and the aggregators

Secondly, it also recommends a National Social Security Board, with representation by the Centre and state governments, aggregators and platforms, to monitor, and recommend welfare schemes for such workers.

What are the issues that needs to be addressed in the Code?

First, the code should define the employee-gig worker relationship. For example, the EU law determines this relationship in terms of levels of aggregator supervision.

This could be a tricky exercise in India since there are many categories of self-employed workers who typically divide their time between multiple employers. For example, food delivery agents or cab aggregators.

Second, there is a need to balance the benefits to gig workers against the cost advantages that platforms and aggregators derive from their low-cost business models.

Third, the bigger concern is the absence of redress for gig workers in the Code. Labour courts exist, but they are expensive for ordinary workers to access. Instead, a responsive appeal institution needs to be created.

Source: This post is based on the article “Protecting gig workers” published in the Business Standard on 16th Dec 2021.

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