Question: Examine the current status of social protection measures for gig workers and suggest policy interventions to address their vulnerabilities. (250 words)
A gig worker is an individual who engages in short-term, temporary, or freelance work, often through digital platforms or on-demand service apps. Gig workers are commonly associated with the gig economy, where they perform tasks or projects on a flexible basis without formal employment contracts or long-term commitments to a specific employer. For e.g.: DoorDash, Grubhub, or Swiggy.
- The Code on Wages, 2019, establishes a universal minimum wage and floor wage for both organized and unorganized sectors, including gig workers.
- The Code on Social Security, 2020, recognizes gig workers as a new occupational category.
Issues in the Security Code:
- Lack of Guaranteed Benefits: While the Code on Social Security bill, 2020, makes platform workers eligible for various benefits, it does not ensure the guarantee of these benefits.
- Undefined Responsibility: The Code states that the provision of welfare measures is a joint responsibility of the Central government, platform aggregators, and workers, but it does not specify the exact responsibilities of each stakeholder.
Way Forward for Social Protection of Gig Workers:
- Paid Leaves, Health Access, and Insurance:
- Introduce measures for paid sick leave, health access, and insurance for gig workers throughout the year, not just during emergencies like the Covid-19 pandemic.
- Offer these benefits as part of workplace or work engagement policies by platform businesses.
- Occupational Disease and Work Accident Insurance:
- Platforms should collaborate with the private sector or government to provide accident insurance to all gig workers, including delivery and driver partners.
- Implement occupational disease insurance to protect gig workers from work-related health hazards.
- Retirement/Pension Plans and Other Benefits:
- Adopt policies that offer retirement/pension plans and other insurance covers for contingencies like work-related injuries leading to income loss.
- Provide gig workers with long-term financial security and protection.
- Support during Irregular Work:
- Offer income support to gig workers during periods of irregular or uncertain work, ensuring a minimum earnings guarantee and social security.
- Mitigate income loss and financial vulnerabilities faced by gig workers.
- Contingency Cover from Corpus Fund:
- Create a corpus fund to support gig workers and self-employed individuals in times of contingencies.
- Utilize the fund to provide social security cover during emergencies or unexpected downturns.
Gig workers typically use digital platforms or mobile apps to find work opportunities, connect with clients or customers, and receive payments for their services. While gig work provides flexibility and the ability to earn income on a per-task basis, it also comes with challenges such as income instability, lack of benefits, and limited social security protection, which has prompted discussions and debates about ensuring better rights and protections for gig workers in various countries.