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The gig economy is getting stronger



As more business processes get automated in future, there is going to be a debate on how to protect the interests of independent workers

In the context of the way the Industrial Revolution 4.0 is set to revolutionise the future of work and jobs, one term that is being commonly used  is “gig economy.” “Gig” refers to a short job or a task. Smartphones, super-fast internet networks and other technologies have resulted in the springing up of many companies that offer platform-based services and employ people for specific tasks while offering wages according to tasks accomplished. For example, many app-based service delivery platforms like Uber, Ola, Zomato, Swiggy, UrbanClap and so on employ people for delivery of products/services and offer incentives in accordance with trips completed, number of customer serviced or number of hours devoted. There are several advantages and disadvantages of this. For workers, it means flexibility and independence from strict 9 to 5 schedules, a way to earn money in accordance with the number of hours devoted and so on. The advantages for companies are that they are able to engage human resources that they otherwise may not have been able to afford. Also, the talent required for each task can be sourced from the best pool available without the compulsion of retaining them. Hence, it saves cost to a large extent as firms don’t have to give benefits like pension, gratuity, provident fund, bonus to the workers. The workers seem to have no rights except in cases of breach of contracts by the employer. This is a major downside as in the absence of any codified laws on regulation, workers are vulnerable to exploitation.


As more and more business processes get automated, there is going to be a debate on how to protect the interests of people working as independent contractors or workers, as several processes in industries, may get automatised, courtesy, Industrial Revolution 4.0.

Given the rising number of such people, governments are taking measures to recognise them as employees, a case in point being California, where lawmakers passed a Bill recognising gig economy workers as employees. In India, too, the new Social Security Code that is being framed by the Ministry of Labour and Employment aims to look into interests of gig workers. Words like ‘gig economy’, ‘platform economy’ and ‘sharing economy’ are appearing in Government documents for the very first time. However, India was always a gig economy. Ancient scriptures like the Atharva Veda tell us that besides agriculture, people engaged in occupations like carpentry, pottery-making, jewellery-making, weaving, carpentry and so on, when they were not engaged in any agrarian activity. In fact, these trades or skill-based occupations were passed on from generation to generation and this led to the classification of society into occupation-based castes.

Further, there were people who were service providers who catered to the needs of society. They were other groups of professionals like  physicians, professional singers, dancers, potters and instrument players. These professionals enjoyed high status in society, thus it can be easily said that possession of skills commanded respect in ancient Indian economies. Skills were aspirational and since skills were passed on from generations to generations, therefore how skill development would take place for youngsters was not a major problem. However, once India lost independence to the British and its people were bound to help in the administration of the country, Indians started aspiring to be part of the so-called clerical, bureaucratic or “white-collared” workforce. Slowly, educated Indians lost interest in traditional skills and believed that only white-collared jobs would help them lead a prosperous life. The economy that was once self-sustained, was reduced to one that was trying to develop with the development model of the West. The results of the same are now before us.

The future of work that the world is talking about today has many aspects. Two aspects that would particularly impact emerging economies like ours are that human workers in future will be required to work together with machines as their co-workers. And, many job roles that exist today will be redundant in future as machines will be competent enough to carry out the tasks previously performed by people. Thus, it is imperative that governments should be prepared to face the challenge of ensuring “decent work” to the youth. They should be trained in skill sets that are expected to remain relevant in the wake of industrial disruptions. Once this is ensured, juggling different tasks or jobs rather than sticking to one becomes feasible. It is being predicted that the companies would prefer to engage people on processes that would essentially entail human intervention rather than that of machine and the workers would be engaged for a shorter duration till needed. This work culture is growing globally and is pointing towards strengthening of the gig economy. However, experience tells us that there is nothing to be afraid of. Humans invented machines and now we have to ensure that they remain our helpers and do not become a threat.

(The writer is Professor and HOD Management and Commerce, Trinity Institute of Professional Studies, IPGGSU)

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‘Uber for evictions:’ Startup raising eyebrows for listing tenant removal gig jobs | WETM




(NEXSTAR) – The newest option for flexible gig work doesn’t involve driving your neighbors around or delivering food to their homes, it requires removing them and their stuff for failing to pay the rent.

The website for the startup Civvl advertises process server and eviction crew work on a flexible schedule across all 50 states.

The company website describes the work as the “fastest growing money making gig due to COVID-19.”

According to Civvl’s site, the work involves posting eviction notices, serving papers and assisting with foreclosure cleanouts on behalf of banks, landlords and property managers.

While it may seem like a cruel parody of the gig economy in the age of COVID-19, Vice reporter Ashwin Rodrigues dug into the business and says it appears to legitimate based on its national advertising effort and links to slightly more established gig sites. Rodrigues was unsuccessful in attempts to get a response from the company founders.

“Seizing on a pandemic-driven nosedive in employment and huge uptick in number-of-people-who-can’t-pay-their-rent, Civvl aims to make it easy for landlords to hire process servers and eviction agents as gig workers,” wrote Rodrigues, describing the company as, “Uber, but for evicting people.”

An estimated 22 million people lost their jobs in the early days of the pandemic, and while some of those people have been rehired, many have been lost for good. With government agencies and facing unexpected deficits and stimulus efforts gridlocked, it’s likely that the economic fallout will be felt for months to come.

Renters fearing eviction should look at protections instituted at both the state and federal level.

On September 1st, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a moratorium on evictions that covered roughly 40 million Americans at risk of losing their residences. In order to be covered, the renters are required to sign a document declaring that they don’t make more than $99,000 annually or $198,000 if filing jointly, and that they would likely become homeless if not receiving protections.

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Startup Civvl Blends Gig Economy With Evictions




The world of startups can sometimes teeter dangerously close to self-parody. For years now, “Uber, but for ____” has worked as shorthand for hundreds, if not thousands, of upstart tech companies. Over the summer, an app allowing swimming pool owners to rent out their pools by the hour got plenty of coverage; a year earlier, that’s the kind of thing that might have popped up in a satirical novel or television show.

Where do we go from here? A new article at Vice offers one suggestion: a startup called Civvl. As author Ashwin Rodrigues describes it, Civvl is “essentially, Uber, but for evicting people.” As apps go, that sounds like something that would’ve been cut from Sorry to Bother You for being a little too on-the-nose.

The Vice article chronicles Civvl’s growth: it’s been posting ads on Craigslist for work all over the country, citing the pandemic and the damage it’s done to the nation’s economy as an explanation for why its services are in demand. “There is plenty of work due to the dismal economy,” one ad states. Among the gigs offered: process servers and furniture movers.

The article goes into even more detail about Civvl’s origins, including the fact that it’s part of a larger gig economy-based company called OnQall — and that people who have downloaded the app have posted angry reviews about being charged a $35 fee to use it. A startup charging people money to find work evicting other people sounds like the stuff of satire; instead, it’s just another sign of 2020 being 2020.

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Code on Social Security, 2020, lays down gig and platform worker benefits




In a first, the central government has recognised the gig economy gig workers, platform workers, and aggregators under a wide-ranging proposed labour law that it introduced in Lok Sabha on Saturday. The Code on Social Security, 2020, empowers the central government to formulate social security schemes for gig workers and platform workers around life and disability cover, accident insurance, health and maternity benefits, old age protection, creche, and other benefits the government may determine as necessary.

So far, gig workers have not fallen under any legislation and are not entitled to social security schemes. Companies that rely on gig workers, such as Zomato, Swiggy, Ola, and others, consider such workers as independent contractors, and not employees, and hence leave them out of any social security benefits.

The new code said that social security schemes can be can be fully or partially funded by the government, by aggregators, in part by the state government, or funded by CSR, or “any other source”. Aggregators will have to contribute between 1-2% of their annual turnover, excluding taxes or cess payable to the central government, as contribution to social security funds for gig and platform workers. The aggregator’s contribution will not exceed 5% of the amount payable to gig workers and platform workers.

The bill was introduced in Lok Sabha amidst opposition from Congress MPs Manish Tewari and Shashi Tharoor.

How the code defines gig workers, platform workers, and aggregators

A gig worker is a person who works or participates in a work arrangement and earns from such activity “outside of traditional employer-employee relationship”. Separately, the bill also recognises “platform work”, also a work arrangement outside traditional employer-employee relationship “organisations or individuals use an online platform to access other organisations or individuals to solve specific problems or to provide specific services or any such other activities which may be notified by the Central Government, in exchange for payment”. A “platform worker” is a person engaged in or undertaking platform work.

An aggregator is a digital intermediary or market place for a buyer/user of a service to connect with the seller/service provider. The bill classifies aggregators into the following kinds:

  1. Ride-sharing services
  2. Food and grocery delivery services
  3. Logistic services
  4. e-Market place (both market place and inventory model) for wholesale/retail sale of goods and/or services (B2B/B2C)
  5. Professional services provider
  6. Healthcare
  7. Travel and hospitality
  8. Content and media services
  9. Any other goods and service provider platform

Central govt will lay down scheme specifics

The government will also provide for how the scheme would be administered, what the role of aggregators would be, and the agencies for implementing the scheme, and so on. The government will notify when aggregators have to start contributing.

  • Power to exempt aggregators: The central government can exempt an aggregator or a class of aggregators from contributing funds to social security subject to certain conditions. An aggregator having more than one business shall be treated as a separate business entity or aggregator. [Section 114].

Additionally, the central government will provide for the interest rate payable by aggregators in case of delayed payments or failure to contribute to the social security fund. [Section 114]

Toll free centre: The “appropriate Government” “may” set up a toll free call centre or helpline to give information about social security schemes for unorganised workers, gig workers, and platform workers. The centre will also help with processing registrations for gig workers and platform workers, and help enroll them in the social security schemes. [Section 112]

Government also to establish social security fund

Apart from letting the government form schemes [under Section 114], the bill also provides that the central government establish a social security fund for unorganised workers, gig workers, and platform workers [under Section 141]. For gig and platform workers, the funding can come fully or partially funded from the central the government, from aggregators, in part from state government, or from CSR, or “any other source” (as was mentioned above). It can also be made up of the composition of the offences under the bill.

Social security means “the measures of protection afforded to employees, unorganised workers, gig workers and platform workers to ensure access to health care and to provide income security, particularly in cases of old age, unemployment, sickness,invalidity, work injury, maternity or loss of a breadwinner by means of rights conferred on them and schemes framed, under this Code”.

Scheme under ESIC: The central government can also frame a scheme for gig workers and platform workers, and their family members for benefits admissible under the Employees State Insurance Corporation (ESIC). The government will have to specify the contribution, user charges, scale of benefits, and eligibility criteria in the scheme.

National Social Security Board to be formed, will administer, monitor schemes

A National Social Security Board will be formed by the central government, that will give recommendations on formulating schemes for gig workers and platform workers (and for unorganised workers). It will also monitor the schemes, and advise the centre on issues that arise out of the code’s administration. It will review the state-level record keeping and review the expenditure of the fund and account. The labour minister and labour secretary will serve as chairperson and vice-chairperson.

  • Out of the 40 nominated members (by the centre), 19 will be government officers, including from central government ministries and departments, and from state governments. There will be 21 members 7 representatives each from unorganised sector employers, unorganised sector workers, and eminent persons from civil society [Section 6].

This will also be the board for welfare of gig workers and platform workers. Provided while “such Board serves the purposes of welfare of, or matters relating to, gig workers and platform workers”, some of the members will be replaced by [under Section 114] :

  • 5 representatives each of aggregators, and gig workers and platform workers, nominated by the central government
  • Experts nominated by the central government
  • Five representatives of state governments in rotation
  • Joint secretary in the Labour ministry to serve as member secretary

It’s unclear whether there will be two separate National Social Security Boards, one for unorganised workers [Section 6], and another for gig workers and platform workers [Section 114]. It is more also possible that the same board will have different members, when addressing gig and platform workers.

Mandatory registration with Aadhaar

To avail benefits, every gig worker and platform worker has to register for a unique number, “in such form along with  such documents including Aadhaar number as may be prescribed by the Central Government”. This comes with the pre-condition that gig and platforms workers seeking registration are above 16 years of age and has submitted a self-declaration “containing such information as may be prescribed by the Central Government” [Section 113].

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