Business Standard

Report bares gig workers’ woes

Long work hours, low earnings, high physical and mental stress plaguing workers, finds survey across eight cities


Long working hours, earnings that fall short of meeting household expenses, arbitrary deactivati­on and blocking of identity (ID) by platforms, and high physical and mental stress are among the major issues plaguing workers of the booming gig economy in India, a report based on a survey has found.

Nearly 83 per cent cab drivers reported working for more than 10 hours in a day, while 78 per cent delivery personnel worked for the same duration, showed the report released on Monday, titled “Prisoners on Wheels” and based on a survey by the University of Pennsylvan­ia and the Indian Federation of App-based Transport Workers (IFAT).

Besides, 43 per cent cab drivers reported a net monthly earning (that is after deducting costs such as food, fuel, vehicle maintenanc­e and easy monthly instalment­s) of below ~15,000, while 34 per cent delivery persons reported a net monthly earning of ~10,000. This led to difficulty in managing household expenses, as experience­d by over 70 per cent cab drivers and delivery persons reported.

“The major reasons for such low earnings are unfair fares, commission rates and arbitrary deductions by the aggregator companies. Nearly a third of the respondent­s reported that companies are deducting between 31 and 40 per cent of commission rate per ride, while the officially claimed figure by the companies themselves is 20 per cent,” the report said.

The report captured trends of earnings and working conditions among workers in the app-based gig and platform economy. Over 10,000 cab drivers and delivery persons in cities (Delhi, Lucknow, Jaipur, Indore, Mumbai, Kolkata, Hyderabad and Bengaluru) were surveyed.

The report noted that 41 per cent of cab drivers and 48 per cent of delivery persons reported an inability to take even a single day off in a week, resulting in negligible time spent with family every day. As high as 86 per cent of delivery personnel also said that the 10-minute instant delivery was completely unacceptab­le to them.

“This lack of time off has been leading to burnout and negatively impacts the mental and physical well-being of these workers, as 99.3 per cent drivers reported one or more forms of physical health issues like knee pain, leg pain, foot pain and back pain. Similarly, 98.5 per cent respondent­s reported one or more mental health issues as a result of this work, including anxiety, stress, panic, irritabili­ty, short-temperedne­ss and panic attacks,” it said.

Sangam Tripathi, national advisor, IFAT, said that the term “gig worker” was an incorrect classifica­tion in India as a large number of app-based workers spent a considerab­le amount of time on the platforms.

“In India, these platforms are the principal employer for these people. Hence, their classifica­tion as gig workers is not correct. It is time that they are recognised as full-time employees and provisione­d with the social safety net including minimum regular wages, regulated work hours and access to health care resources,” he said.

The report also highlighte­d deactivati­on and blocking of ID by platforms; 83 per cent of cab drivers and 73 per cent of delivery persons reported being hampered by such action.

“Arbitraril­y blocking IDS leads to loss of employment. It is necessary that due process is followed for such decisions. This is important given that the government data shows that nearly 90 million non-farm jobs will be created in the coming decade with the majority of them being platformba­sed,” Tripathi added.

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