ASSOCHAM, one of the leading and oldest trading organisations,said that India’s gig economy will attain a size of $455 billion by 2023. It is estimated that the number of gig workers in India is about 3 million. With the advent of Covid-19,there has been a phenomenal increase in the digital industry. At the same time, many of those who were using Uber and other platforms to earn their daily money have been left jobless after they were asked to quit the job. It was expected that at least they will be given a reasonable period of time before asking to leave their jobs.
The problem that arises is that people who are part of the gig economy are not technically recognized as “workers”. Therefore, various statutes of the State Government and the Central Government are not applicable to them. This leaves us with a precarious situation where lakhs of people who are part of the gig economy are completely left vulnerable.
However, recent developments in India and abroad provide a glimmer of hope for gig workers. Previous month, the UK court held in a landmark judgement that the Uber drivers were workers and various legislations applicable to the rest of workers were applicable to them also. The UK judgement is significant in two ways- first, it was held that “by logging onto the Uber App in London, a claimant driver came within the definition of ‘ worker’ by entering into a contract with Uber London whereby he undertook to perform driving services for Uber London.” Secondly, the judgement can serve as a lesson for countries like India to develop a mechanism where those who are part of the gig economy get guaranteed rights.
The Code on Social Security 2020 is a right step in recognizing rights of gig workers as it includes them within the ambit of the legislation, paving the way for the Central Governments and State Governments to frame various policies directed for their betterment.
However, a single legislation focusing narrowly on gig workers cannot help them in a holistic way. There are other challenges also. There is no dispute settlement mechanism and platforms such as Uber and Zomato have arbitrary powers to remove a person from using their device. In an article written in The Indian Express, the author through her research highlights various instances where many people using digital platforms were removed without being heard. This also against the principle of audi alteram partem meaning “let the other side be heard.”
Big tech has been successful in evading its responsibilities through various clauses and laws crafted smartly for a long period of time. India is a big market for them. Time has come to leverage our strength and make them realize their duties and obligations.