The unsung workers: Why social security is vital for gig workers

Prashant Janadri | Updated on: Jun 30, 2022
Taking care of workers

Taking care of workers | Photo Credit: Artur

Given how gig is growing in the country providing social security to workers is of crucial importance

The workforce worldwide has evolved from hierarchical, enclosed assemblies to manager-free forms of work. Freedom, flexibility and autonomy are the three aspects that drive new generation workers. More employees are flocking to the gig economy, from delivery executives to freelance consultants.

The post-pandemic world has surely noticed an increase in self-employed workers, who have rebounded and are significantly contributing to the economy.

Where once we had the “corporations,” today we are witnessing the ascendancy of 'platforms' redefining the new workforce.

So why are gig businesses treated as an outlier?

Despite the phenomenal growth and potential of gig workers, lakhs continue to work amid little to no access to social security. Currently, the platform workers or freelancers do not fall under any labour legislation, except the recently introduced Social Security Code, which is yet to come into force. The policies favouring gig workers hasn't been rolled out yet as the current business model followed by most gig platforms is unfair.

Social Security Code

Currently, gig workers are dependent on the generosity of various gig discovery platforms and corporates. Given the vulnerability and risk that gig workers got themselves exposed to during the pandemic, it is high time these workers get covered under the statutory employee benefits.

In today's labour market, traditional work models will not work, and platforms that want to scale their talent management will have to offer compelling benefits to employees.

The existing gig model offers inexpensive ways for employers to recruit workers without worrying about their insurance, pension, safer working environment, annual break, minimum pay scale, etc.

Moreover, down the line, they are also deprived of other unsaid benefits compared to the organised sector workers .

The written petition filed by the Indian Federation of App-based Transport (IFAT) workers in September 2021 is a welcome move considering the fact that it requests gig workers to be declared as “workers” under social security laws and directs the government to recognise all gig workers as “Unorganised workers” under the Unorganised Workers’ Social Welfare Security Act, 2008.

Some issues of the gig economy have also been addressed through the Code on Social Security, 2020 (SS Code).

As per the SS Code, a gig worker is “a person who performs work or participates in a work arrangement and earns from such activities outside a traditional employer-employee relationship”. The emphasis on the need for social security in the SS code and the judgement on the written petition would provide more clarity in terms of the rights of the gig workforce.

Gig workers should be provided with benefits like disability insurance, maternity leave, gratuity, old age protection, and health insurance covers, like any other employee. Wellness memberships and teleconsultation sessions with psychologists and psychiatrists should be an added benefit.

Considering the gig economy is here to stay, it is also necessary to think about physical and emotional well-being of gig workers. A few of the other unique insurance concepts that are suitable for the gig economy and have been in the talks/implementation phase include:

Daily and Weekly Insurance Covers: This kind of facility provides insurance cover during their working hours. Once a gig worker logs in to the platform/app, their insurance activates and automatically gets deactivated once the worker logs off.

AI-based risk exposure calculator: Insurance platforms that register gig workers utilise AI-driven technology to determine the nature of the gig job and analyse the risk factor involved, thereby providing an insurance cover most suitable for them. Gig workers will also have an option to give their health history on the platform. In this way, companies can regulate the benefits to their gig workers.

Cyber gig working and InsurTech: Given the scope of delivery executives and consultants, AI-driven technology will potentially disrupt gigs in the future. Cyber gig working and autonomous cars are bound to replace gig workers in the near future. While there is scope for the gig economy to grow it is also mandatory to look at the benefits offered to the existing gig workers. With the help of external ecosystem partners that collect real-time data, InsurTech players can provide customisation and desired flexibility at an affordable cost to gig workers.

Lack of such social security benefits will create an apprehension in the minds of the youth, who could likely be a part of the gig economy. It may, in turn, lead to higher attrition.

These unsung/unheard gig workers have also contributed to the system, especially during the pandemic. Therefore, there is a need to give utmost priority to their rights and the implementation of the law governing the gig economy.

The writer is Co-founder of Taskmo, a gig-tech platform

Published on June 30, 2022
  1. Comments will be moderated by The Hindu editorial team.
  2. Comments that are abusive, personal, incendiary or irrelevant cannot be published.
  3. Please write complete sentences. Do not type comments in all capital letters, or in all lower case letters, or using abbreviated text. (example: u cannot substitute for you, d is not 'the', n is not 'and').
  4. We may remove hyperlinks within comments.
  5. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name, to avoid rejection.

You May Also Like

Recommended for you