Gig workers, as those engaged in non-traditional livelihoods outside the usual employer and employee arrangement have always been referred to, are now also called ‘platform-based’ workers. Their work is based on digital platforms and online software apps or digital platforms and with the recent technology boom, 2023 is expected to see a further exponential rise in the gig economy. As per a Niti Aayog report, the number of gig workers is likely to go up to 23.5 million in the coming 5 years, which is nearly a 200 per cent jump from today and is starting a new economic revolution globally. India, in particular, with its young population, half billion labour force, rapid urbanisation and widespread use of smartphones and technology are leading this revolution. Even in the aftermath of the pandemic, the gig economy stood strong in its potential and resilience by continuing to unlock jobs for millions.
The same study by Niti Aayog shows that 22 per cent of the jobs are high-skilled, 47 per cent are medium-skilled and 31 per cent are low-skilled. The demand for gig workers which has increased by 10 times is far beyond the participation of gig workers which has only increased by 3 times in the year 2022 as compared to 2021. The participation of female gig workers has gone up from 18 percent to 36 percent while youth participation has increased by 8 times between 2019 and 2022.
Digitisation is constantly changing the marketing scenario and now Indian companies are looking for gig workers to fulfil roles in field sales, business development, digital promotion and micro-influencers to name a few. The whole scenario is changing as gig workers are no longer young people on the lookout for seasonal jobs, they are professionals who can’t find long-lasting traditional jobs and have created new ways of working and earning a living. They are self-employed individuals, usually Millennials and Gen Z, who do jobs independently or through third parties.
Companies have started expanding their influence in Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities by setting up secondary offices in smaller towns through a tech-driven approach, remote working, providing monitoring solutions, multi-language support, job tracking and ease of payment. The gig economy is here to stay as it is the need of the hour and is constantly re-formatting the hiring and working scene globally. The gig and platform sector has low entry barriers which have led to the democratisation of jobs and holds the power to create job opportunities in India. It offers better earning opportunities than those earned previously in similar non-platform jobs and can act as a catalyst for occupational mobility.
With the expanding gig economy in every sector, gig workers can expect some changes for the better in their working conditions in 2023.
Increased opportunities: 2023 is very likely to make inroads in the history of the gig economy with the ever-increasing demand. There is going to be a healthy demand and supply situation with the marketing, E-commerce and IT sectors creating the highest demand. Field sales executives, business development executives, telecallers, micro influencers etc. are expected to be in high demand. An online government portal has seen a registration of more than 290 million people. This portal issues identity cards to gig workers and other unorganised employees while gathering biometric data and details of their skills.
Health and financial benefit: As the cost benefits of hiring gig workers are being recognised, the year 2023 will be a very crucial year in building a healthy work environment. The government as well as gig discovery platforms are going to prioritise the physical and mental health of gig workers by providing various forms of financial and social securities.
Upskilling: In a gig economy, the more skills you have the more you can earn. Your earning capacity is directly proportional to the number of skills you possess and how updated you are with regard to the market demand. It is a fragile market where the demand for skills is very dynamic and is constantly changing with market trends making it imperative to keep upskilling so that your earning is not affected. So 2023, is going to see a huge demand for upskilling in gig workers.
This is not to say that this sector doesn’t have its own share of challenges. An increasing number of workers have taken up jobs in this sector due to digital technology and internet services but they lack job security, regularity of wages and have an uncertain employment status. This uncertainty due to irregularity of work and wages leads to increased pressure and stress. The platform owner and worker have a contractual relationship and is more often than not treated as an arrangement between independent parties in favour of the contractor which undermines the employee. They are treated as independent contractors and are deprived of the entitlements and protection that a workplace usually offers its employees. Studies also show that the pressure caused by performance evaluation based on ratings and algorithmic management practices can be very stressful for gig workers. The gig workers have the government worried about rising complaints and social media campaigns against digital platforms about long working hours and commission cuts.
The need of the hour due to the ever-growing workforce of gig workers is to provide decent working conditions and look after the welfare of workers. Technological diffusion has completely changed the work environment and we can expect to see many more such changes in the near future. A lot of time and effort needs to be put in to ensure innovation while creating jobs and protecting the interests of gig workers at the same time.
- What should gig workers expect in 2023? | India Today | January 2023
- Will gig platforms rule the world? What to expect in 2023? | The Economics Times | January 2023
- India Plans Welfare Measures for Gig Workers Ahead of Elections |Business Today | August 2023
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