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‘Covid pandemic is made to order for gig ecosystem as freelancing can help recover Indian economy’

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The pandemic has brought to fore the vulnerability of the migrants who are vital cogs of our agriculture, industrial and service supply and value chains.
  • By Udai S Mehta & Himanshu Dube

Last few years have seen an unprecedented growth of platforms created by technology firms. This has resulted in the creation of new jobs, not only for engineers but also for semi-educated youth as drivers, delivery boys, cooks, packers and others in multiple supply chains. The ecosystem created by these intermittent or short-term employment (largely freelancers), has come to be known as the gig economy. Since the enforcement of nation-wide lockdown in mid-March owing to Covid-19, the Indian economy has come to a grinding halt. While in recent days, in many places, the government has allowed shops, establishments and factories to open up, it has placed a number of restrictions to promote the wellbeing of citizens and workers. Like all other enterprises, gig platforms too are either closed or working under capacity.

Short-term but Transformative Opportunity

The pandemic has brought to fore the vulnerability of the migrants who are vital cogs of our agriculture, industrial and service supply and value chains. They work and live under abysmal conditions with neither their wage nor living conditions being decent or assured. While on one hand, the above descriptions suggest a woeful economy, on the other hand, they carry within them many opportunities. And as the pandemic is but a temporary phenomenon, much that will work under it will not be required thereafter. Thus, the situation is made to order for the gig ecosystem and it can play a role in the recovery of the Indian economy.

The pandemic has resulted in the emergence of new jobs especially related to healthcare such as isolation and quarantine centres, surveillance and monitoring, elderly care and emotional support. Odisha recently announced that it had set up quarantine centres in 7,000 villages. It is expected that managing and servicing these centres would require locally trained persons. Similar infrastructure will be required in entire rural India and possibly every half sq km of urban India.

To reduce the workload on the existing healthcare workforce, it is now clear that India needs to at least quintuple its paramedics who could work in short shifts of four-six hours every alternate day. At the same time, it is important for them to maintain their immunity and to keep contributing to the battle against Covid-19 related mortality. Many of these old and new jobs can be undertaken by millions of migrants with relevant training and capacity-building support, as they will do things which they have never done before.

Thus, the pandemic offers a short-term but transformative opportunity to technology firms to enable India’s economic recovery. This could be with the objective of ensuring overall production efficiency and productivity through coordination of India’s human capital. For instance, tech-enabled platforms may help in deciding the number of workers that could work at a particular time on a factory floor/production process while maintaining physical distancing. It could help in time and space management between different trucks so that crowding does not happen at unloading destination/mandis or markets.

It may enable monitoring and screening body temperature of workers linked with it to ensure all workers are healthy. Skill enhancement may be required in jobs at managerial/supervisory level so that they are able to analyse real-time data and take quick decisions about the replacement of workers, delaying the supply, to maintain physical distancing without unreasonably disrupting production and supply. This skill enhancement can also be provided by technology firms using e-learning solutions.

Thus, we could have Oyo and MakeMyTrip managing quarantine and worker accommodation centres, Ola and Uber providing lockdown/curfew pass transport as well as medical evacuation, and Swiggy and Zomato running food centres. Amazon, Flipkart and Grofers can supply groceries and other essentials. Rivigo and other supply chain platforms can also emerge to keep the industries supplied with raw materials and to transport finished goods to the markets both brick and online. Zoom and Meet can be used to organise trainings. And there could be many more such business models.

Remuneration Payments

The technology firms can further help augment human resources by informing workers about intermittent or short-term job opportunities either in pandemic management or in industry. On getting information about various job openings such as manning a shift at neighbourhood isolation centre or monitoring those quarantined in the locality or after adequate digital training provide nursing support to patients needing critical care relieving the overwhelmed workers of the healthcare system. This can further be extended to supporting community kitchens or worker accommodations required to service the industrial units.

Thus, this brings us to the critical question of “remuneration payments”. The lockdown has resulted in a near breakdown of the economy. The enterprises which are at the edge of their viability currently are expected to take a further knock as physical distancing norms means lower production and increased costs to follow it. To maintain their viability they would need to produce to their capacity by hiring additional human resources that they cannot afford to pay. This is where the government can step in. It can make these ‘additional” human resource remuneration payments through public social protection programmes.

While not regarded as such, India has experimented with gig ecosystem for social protection in the last decade and a half under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) by providing intermittent or short-duration work available on demand.

The government can extend MGNREGS to cover additional human resource payments, especially if work is provided to those enrolled with technology platforms. The government may further ensure that those obtaining work through these platforms are guaranteed minimum income and days of employment. This may not only create employment at a massive scale but also contribute to economic recovery during these difficult times of the pandemic.

Udai S Mehta is the Deputy Executive Director of CUTS International and Himanshu Dube is the Executive Director of Insight Development Consulting Group.

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Here’s how you can turn your volunteering gig into paid work

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We talk to Volunteering Australia for some tips 

It’s no secret that volunteering can be a great way to give back to your community and a cause you’re passionate about, make friends, and broaden your networks and skillbase.

There’s also a chance that with a bit (or a lot) of hard work, time, and passion, your volunteering job can turn into paid work. 

But is there a right and a wrong way to go about doing this? We asked the CEO of Volunteering Australia, Mark Pearce, for some advice. 

Volunteer more than once 

It’s important to keep in mind that giving one random day of your time to a charity probably won’t land you an instant job. These things take a level of personal investment, so find a volunteering opportunity you enjoy, and stick to it.  

“Potential employers will view an ongoing volunteering role as having more likely impacted on skills development and work experience,” Pearce says. 

Be on the lookout for opportunity

Staying open minded about your experience as a volunteer is critical. If you go in expecting to get paid at the end of it, you’ll probably be disappointed. Instead, Pearce says you should keep your eyes and ears open for new contacts or opportunities that will help you find an entry point into the organisation. 

“Job seekers need to be mindful of the potential opportunities to gain work experience or to develop skills as part of the volunteering experience,” he explains.  

View it as a chance for self development 

The job market is particularly competitive at the moment and it’s easy to feel defeated when you’ve been knocked back from all the jobs you’re applying for. 

But volunteering comes with a whole range of benefits and can help you feel more motivated, confident and industrious when looking for work.

“Volunteering may assist in ‘levelling the playing field’ for individuals who typically have a more difficult time finding employment, especially during a recession or if lacking experience in a particular industry or role,” Pearce says. 



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Finding health insurance a headache for gig workers | Mid-Missouri News

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COLUMBIA – When Amy Crousore decided to become a full-time musician 3 years ago, she never imagined a pandemic would dry up her business.

Now, 8 months into the global health crisis, Crousore is reflecting on the struggles of the gig industry.

“Everything shut down and there was just no back up for us,” she said.

She said many of her colleagues were already taking day jobs before the pandemic just so they could receive health insurance.

Crousore has also taken up a job as a caretaker to make ends meet until venues reopen.

“We compared about 12 different healthcare plans,” she said. “I considered whether I would have to take a loan to pay for a more expensive plan.”

Health insurance is a headache Jason Gruender and Jen Wheeler know well.

Gruender manages Liberty Family Medicine with his wife, a doctor.

Wheeler manages Big Tree Medical Home with her husband, also a doctor.

Both clinics operate through unconventional business models that are less reliant on traditional insurance plans. Instead, you pay for a membership or one-time fees.

“We believe in our model, and it’s working well across the nation, and it’s working well here in Columbia,” Wheeler said.

Gruender is also confident in his clinic.

“I think we have a broken health care system,” he said. “The clinic is not a complete solution to that problem, but it’s a step in the right direction.”

As the world navigates a pandemic, the path to affordable health care has been riddled with troubles.

Crousore worries necessities like health care will alter the landscape of the music industry.

“Do you want there to be nobody you can call to play for your wedding because everybody is working 40 hours a week to get insurance,” Crousore asked. “What kind of world do you want?”

Gruender and Wheeler also said choosing a health insurance plan is an important decision that should be given lots of thought.

Enrollment through the Affordable Care Act is open right now and closes Dec. 15. There are other enrollment periods for special life events, such as getting married.

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Pendulum swings back to break lockdown lull with hometown New Year’s gig

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“During the whole lockdown thing it’s been kind of hard to put an original stamp on a set or a piece of live music; everyone’s been playing from their living rooms, everyone’s playing next to the f—ing fridge, so we had to come up with something new.”

The end result, an hour-long live-streamed performance at Spitbank Fort, was broadcast in October and also heralded the drum ‘n’ bass outfit’s first new material in a decade; the double-A side Driver/Nothing For Free.

Not being able to perform live has other pitfalls; even with their show at Spitbank Fort and a well-received global release, the group’s new material still hasn’t been tested in front of crowds.

“When we’re getting ready to release something always a huge component of it is playing it to small audiences, or sometimes even big audiences, and getting a lot of feedback from that, especially when it comes to Rob doing final mixdowns and stuff,” McGrillen said.

“That’s one thing we’ve definitely missed.”

Pendulum will be able to break free from the bonds of live-streaming soon and give crowds a full dose of new music with a homecoming headline slot at Perth’s Origin Fields New Year festival.

Billed as ‘Pendulum Trinity’ the group’s founding members – Swire, Gareth McGrillen and Paul ‘El Hornet’ Harding – are the first headliners announced alongside Australian house heavyweight Dom Dolla.

Based in the UK, McGrillen and Swire are very much ready to “do the whole quarantine thing” and fly to Perth to join Harding, who lives in the group’s hometown. With coronavirus cases soaring around the world, it seems there’s nowhere else they’d rather be.

“Perth’s the safest place in the world right now,” McGrillen said.

It’s been a long time between drinks on the new music front, with Swire and McGrillen splitting off to form the electro/bass-driven Knife Party after Pendulum’s last album, Immersion, was released in 2010.

Pendulum shows continued, primarily driven by Harding, and when live shows returned in 2016, so did the ideas for new music under the Pendulum banner.

As with anything released in 2020, it’s tempting to read into the new tunes as inspired by the trash-fire year that was, but Swire said the roots of Driver/Nothing For Free came as early as 2016.

“I think current events might have added 20 per cent angst to the sound,” he said.

“Ten years is a nice round number and I sort of feel if you get away longer than that, you may as well not bother … we’d been doing the Knife Party thing for about 10 years, we always feel like switching it up.”

And while 2020 marks the first new Pendulum music in a decade, it is also another milestone; 15 years since the group’s explosive debut album, Hold Your Colour.

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The release still holds a special place for fans and the group alike – “the tracks on it still feel kind of magic,” Swire said – but at the time the trio didn’t know whether they had a hit or a flop on their hands.

“It was a weird time for us, we’d only been in England for about two years when we wrote it. In retrospect, it’s kind of the sound of culture shock and sleep deprivation,” Swire said.

“I think the first time we knew this whole thing had some longevity to it was when we made the next album (2008’s In Silico).

“We sort of switched the style and it still works and we thought, ‘Well, we’re onto something’, because we’ve brought all these new fans in who don’t even like drum ‘n’ bass.”

There’s a temptation, listening to Driver/Nothing For Free, to draw parallels between the tracks and the distinct styles between Pendulum’s earlier releases.

Driver, as the name suggests, is a fast-paced drum ‘n’ bass anthem; a heavy, rolling beat setting the pace for buzzsaw basslines interspersed with breakbeat clatters. Nothing For Free, on the other hand, features sing-along hooks rising to a rocking, headbanging crescendo, reminiscent of the outfit’s later albums.

So, is this a conscious effort? Or a by-product of almost two decades producing forward-thinking, genre-blending electronic hits?

The latter, largely.

Swire and McGrillen agreed they never intended to follow their earlier work too closely, but when inspiration strikes, well, sometimes it just pans out that way.

“It somehow just organically falls into either [style]; you get a sense halfway through, you get a sense like, ‘This sounds like kind of a Hold Your Colour tip’, or you can tell it’s a new style,” Swire said.

Pendulum will perform at Langley Park on Perth’s foreshore on New Year’s Eve. Tickets and information at originfields.com.au.

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