No sick leave, job rotation: India's gig workers are overworked, underpaid -Prachi Salve & Shreehari Paliath

-Business Standard/ India Spend

Another limitation of employment at app-based companies is the lack of avenues for professional growth

Arif*, 28, shuffled uncomfortably in the driver’s seat of his Maruti Wagon R as he tackled the crowded streets of Lower Parel, Mumbai’s arterial business district, on a sultry April 2019 evening. A hit track from the recent Hindi movie Gully Boy played on the music system but it did nothing to drown out the noise outside or ease his discomfort.

Arif had recently undergone an appendectomy and though the stitches had been removed, the wound was yet to heal completely. But rest was not an option. “If I stay at home, I won’t be able to earn anything,” he said, adding, “I have to take a break after each trip because it hurts.”

Arif is among the 1.5 million drivers working for ride-hailing companies in the country, part of India’s emerging gig economy--a labour market characterised by short-term contracts or freelance work for drivers, delivery staff and so on. Employers include web- or mobile-application based cab services such as Uber and Ola, and food delivery applications such as Zomato and Uber Eats.

Ola and Uber India have a 95% share of the country’s platform taxi market, and between late 2017 and early 2018, Ola had 56.2% of that share, Economic & Political Weekly reported in June 2018.

But app-based service companies such as Ola, Uber, Uber Eats, and Zomato have some of the worst working conditions among Indian start ups, according to a study by the Fairwork Project, an initiative led by two Oxford University researchers, Quartz India reported on March 26, 2019.

The companies were ranked on five principles of fairness--pay, conditions, contracts, management and representation. Of a total score of 10, Ola and Uber scored two; Uber Eats, two; while Zomato scored four. The only criterion that Ola and Uber met was pay, the Quartz India report added, meaning they “paid at least the local minimum wage, including employment costs incurred by the worker”.

This is the third and final story in our series on the informalisation of employment in India. The first and second dealt with the impact of contractualisation, when companies no longer hire directly and on permanent positions, but prefer to go via contracts, which enables them to hire and fire more easily, and cut back on perks and benefits.

India faces rural distress-led migration and a four-decade-high unemployment rate of 6.1%, the Periodic Labour Force Survey conducted by the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) between July 2017-June 2018, released May 31, 2019, said. The government had withheld this report, but it had been leaked in January 2019, causing consternation over its bleak findings ahead of general elections. In response, the NITI Aayog, a government think tank, asserted in January 2019 that application-based cab companies such as Ola and Uber alone had created more than 2 million jobs.

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Business Standard/ India Spend, 4 June, 2019,

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