Around 80 per cent of informal workers anticipate their employers offering them the assurance of Employee State Insurance (ESI) and other medical benefits, according to Quess Corp, a staffing and managed outsourcing services provider. The report is based on interviews with 4,179 respondents of all ages across 14 cities.

The expectation of ESI is even higher for the younger, informal employees (83 per cent — 18 to 25 years old, and 81 per cent — 26 to 35 years old).

Furthermore, 79 per cent of respondents claim they would compromise on 20 per cent or more of their salary if it provided security and benefits equivalent to their formal counterparts (78 per cent). The report uncovers the aspirations of the country’s informal economy post-pandemic and reveals thata majority of workers are still without any social security coverage, and their aspirations to move into an inclusive, secure lifestyle are taking shape.

Social security

“With high aspirations regarding skilling, social security and healthcare benefits, India’s informal economy is as aspirational to benefit from EPFO, ESIC and other social security benefits as their formal counterparts. Our current laws enable coverage of such social security benefits only for organisations that have more than 10 or 20 employees. This leaves behind a huge class of citizens that are not benefitted by these laws,” said Lohit Bhatia, President of Workforce Management, Quess Corp.

Additionally, informal employees are prioritising factors such as prestige and career potential over wages today. Moreover, 97 per cent of those informally employed agree that they have a better chance of improving their lifestyle and that of their families with a formal job as opposed to one without a contract.

Impact of tech

 Technology has played an important role in educating workers about the benefits of formal employment, with the survey revealing that 84 per cent of the informal respondents agree that technology has helped create more awareness about the advantages of formal employment.

Furthermore, it was found that 70 per cent of respondents employed informally have leveraged tech portals such as job hunting portals, online news portals and company websites to search for information about job security and benefits any prospective employer offers.

Professional opportunities

While both genders are looking beyond wage rates when assessing professional opportunities, the priorities of women working in the informal sector are skewed towards health and security, while men are more inclined towards career building.

The report found that 63 per cent of women claim that they would be ‘very likely’ to compromise on a higher salary in lieu of health benefits and a formal agreement, compared with only 28 per cent of men. Furthermore, 38 per cent of women (and 29 per cent of men) believe that the Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of job security.