Attribution: Ria Kasliwal, “Gender and the Gig Economy: A Qualitative Study of Gig Platforms for Women Workers,” ORF Issue Brief No. 359, May 2020, Observer Research Foundation.
INTRODUCTION: GIG ECONOMY AND GENDER ISSUES
India’s gig economy has witnessed an enormous surge in recent years, from the time Flipkart was the only digital platform in the country in 2010. Since then, various digital platforms have flooded the market, catering to services such as housework, cosmetics, and food delivery. The platform economy has particularly attracted female service providers due to the flexibility it offers. However, there remain structural barriers to women’s entry into the gig economy. This brief analyses five Indian platforms that cater to “low-skilled” women gig workers. It highlights some of the systemic gender issues that plague the gig economy in India and provides recommendations to address them.
India is the second-largest market of freelance professionals in the world (~15 million), second only to the United States (~53 million). In the 2019 Noble House Report, 81 percent of the major corporations surveyed reported using gig workers[a] for at least one major organisational issue in the past year. The same year, the Indian Ministry of Labour and Employment proposed the Code on Social Security Bill, which recognised gig and platform workers for the first time and made provisions to offer them social security benefits. This was a welcome move, but its implementation has been hindered by the lack of adequate data on gig workers. While countries around the world have already started investing in collecting data, the measurement tends to be more complicated, since gig work remains only a supplementary source of income for many.
Inability to Facilitate Women’s Inclusion in Workforce
One of the main reasons for women’s high attrition rate in the workforce is the burden of simultaneously carrying out unpaid work at home and paid work in their professions, especially after starting families. The flexibility offered by gig platforms allows workers to better manage unpaid care and paid work, by letting workers determine their work hours and reducing their dependence on a static physical space. As the gig economy gained more ground, it was assumed that more women would come into the ambit of the workforce in India, leading to an overall improvement in the workforce participation rate. Statistically, however, little improvement has been seen.
Not only is the work mandated by socio-cultural norms, but the flexibility offered by gig work depends largely on whether it is a primary or supplementary source of income. Gig work as a primary source of income allows for less flexibility, compared to when such work is a source of additional earning. That “platformisation” has not managed to directly increase Female Labour Force Participation Rate (FLPR) in India is indicative of this inequity. For over two decades, the FLPR has seen a steady decline, dropping from over 30 percent in the early 2000s to 26 percent in 2018. In 2017–18, the FLPR was 34 percent for the urban self-employed population and 13 percent for urban casual workers, compared to 42 percent and 14 percent in 2011–12, respectively, implying a fall in participation rate for both categories where gig workers could be included. Studies conducted in the UK show that women are more likely to exit from the gig economy. This could be attributed to their income being of the ‘distressed’ category. Consequently, as soon as conditions improve, women leave the workforce (this phenomenon is widely visible in India’s informal economy as well).
Unequal access to digital technologies is another significant hurdle to women’s participation in gig work. According to the GSMA Mobile Gender Gap Report 2019, only 16 percent of women in India are mobile internet users. Despite government initiatives such as “Digital India,” digital literacy remains a problem amongst women. Women are also less likely to own mobile phones and devices largely due to socio-cultural restrictions. To address this issue, some platforms offer their own devices. However, this is a stop-gap solution; the imperatives are digital education, skills training and the removal of barriers of accessibility.
Structural Barriers, Gendered Work and Gender Pay Gap
In theory, the gig economy’s equal-opportunity nature is one of its strongest assets. However, machine-learning algorithms are curated by coders who might program some inherent bias into them, and these algorithms also modify their actions by imitating the users. Therefore, algorithms are fully capable of reinforcing biases. Thus, the platform economy can inadvertently promote gendered work. Further, while platformisation allows combining paid work and unpaid care work, it tends to put women under extra work burden, since they still take care of the majority of household work.
In a 2018 study conducted by Observer Research Foundation and World Economic Forum, 35 percent of the women surveyed were disinterested in joining the gig economy due to the lack of job security and uncertain employment status. According to a study by Hunt and Machingura (2016), the rise of on-demand domestic work in India highlights unequal power relations emerging out of discrimination and exploitation against workers who are already more vulnerable in traditional domestic work. The absence of women in central decision-making positions exacerbates these issues. A study on Uber workers in the US exposed a gender pay gap between men and women who performed similar tasks. A similar study was conducted by Team Lease in India, which observed an 8–10 percent difference in monthly salary between male and female delivery executives.
The problem in India is twofold: an inability to facilitate women’s movement into the workforce, and the perpetuation of structural and operational barriers promoting gendered division of gig work. Despite the introduction of the Code on Social Security Bill of 2019, the Indian platform economy continues to neglect the protection of women’s labour.
PRESENTATION OF STUDY
The objective was to conduct an analysis on the following themes:
- Do any specific conditionalities cater to women’s inclusion into the gig work?
- Are there provisions for privacy, safety and security for women gig workers?
- Are there are any social security and employment benefits provided to gig workers?
- Is there a definitive sexual division of work allotted?
While the first three themes were analysed by studying the ToU and PP (available publicly on the platform websites) and conducting interviews, the last one relied on the gender ratio data. A request was submitted for the provision of data on the gender ratio of work. However, the platforms did not respond, disallowing the author to gauge the gender ratio of the work allotted to the services professionals.
The above-mentioned platforms were chosen in the study as their rapid growth in India’s flourishing gig market helped in understanding the immediate concerns of the workers engaged and the sort of security provisions they provided to women workers, in particular.
Observations and Recommendations
The study highlighted several issues. These are discussed in the following paragraphs, along with relevant recommendations that are aimed at promoting increased participation of women in India’s gig economy.
1. Restrictions on Women’s Movement
Dispute Redressal System
The platforms have no specific policies to make it easier for women to enter the workforce. Further, there is an evident lack of any provision for dispute redressal. In case of a dispute between registered parties, the platforms claim no obligation to become involved and are not liable for any damages or demands. The only provisions offered are either cost-effective, unbiased and quick ways of solving disputes and/or redressal via arbitration or mediation instead of litigation. For feedback resolution, the platforms claim final authority on the action taken, without being obliged to any liability. Corrective actions can range from account termination to content modification or deletion. The lack of a free dispute-resolution system can lead to ambiguity in the process and extra expenses incurred thereby. Moreover, the end decision can still be influenced by the more powerful amongst the parties. Therefore, the threat of retaliation through negative or incorrect feedback might prevent workers from raising legitimate disputes.
The establishment of a transparent in-house dispute resolution system would be quite useful. The disputing parties could then present their cases without the fear of an absolute final call, which they otherwise would not be able to contest. The establishment of a dispute redressal body would be especially profitable for women service providers. Gig workers, in general, shy away from raising disputes not only because of the lengthy processes involved but because of the fear of a consequential fall in ratings. For a lot of women workers, gig work is the primary source of income, which they cannot afford to lose. Consequently, they do not even raise disputes. The need for dispute redressal especially needs to be seen in the context of restrictions on women’s movement. Facilitating women’s inclusion in gig work necessitates the provision of an online in-house transparent dispute redressal system by the platform, where both parties could complain if there is any problem that emerges during the service.
2. Provision of Privacy, Safety and Security
Platform of Platforms
In India, there are no legislations or institutions to comprehensively regulate digital platforms. While the Companies Act, 2013 governs the registered companies, it is inadequate for monitoring the actions of such dynamic platforms. Thus, a new and updated set of regulations is required, especially in light of the expansion of the gig economy network. The need of the hour is to establish a body or a “Platform of Platforms” with legislative backing, which would not only establish a standard set of guidelines that the platforms must adhere to but also monitor these platforms. The guidelines could include employee/worker code of conduct, rules for the dispute redressal body and mechanism, and instructions for other areas of governance.
For instance, only one platform amongst the five studied (Urban Clap) has a clause that mandates recording conversations prior to an agreement on the service. Such data can serve as valuable evidence in case of any dispute and ensure the digital safety of the service providers. This is especially important for women service providers, who are at a greater risk of harassment by potential service users, in the form of verbal abuse, stalking or bullying. A provision mandating recording service-related conversations can give women gig workers a sense of security. To ensure that the recording is not used as a mode of surveillance against the workers, the ability to record must be the prerogative of the workers, not of the platforms. Self-defence training can also be made compulsory for all gig workers to empower women workers to ensure their safety if they find themselves in unsafe spaces while out for work.
The “Platform of Platforms” will be responsible for monitoring all digital platforms. In the event of any inconsistency, the platform can be held accountable and must face repercussions. This will ensure a safer digital as well as physical workspace for women gig workers.
The platforms have measures to ensure that both the service provider and service user are genuine, and urge all parties to practise further caution at an individual level. However, in an emergency situation, e.g. one that may arise at the service user’s home, none of the platforms studied has a mechanism to ensure that service professionals can end the service and exit safely.
There is an urgent need to include an emergency button in the applications used by these service professionals, using which will terminate the service and send an SOS message to both the emergency contact of the service professional and the platform. In response, emergency transportation would immediately be dispatched to shift the service provider to a safe space. Such a mechanism is especially important for women workers, who might find themselves in an unsafe space post the start of the service.
Of the five platforms analysed in this study, only UrbanClap provides a safety procedure for workers who visit the client’s house for their service. The other platforms justify the absence of a safety procedure by arguing that their pre-service cautions are adequate. However, if the service professional feels unsafe during the course of service delivery, there is no recourse to end the service immediately without facing negative consequences. In the backdrop of increasingly violent crimes against women in India, an emergency mechanism becomes extremely important to ensure a safer working environment.
Prevention of Workplace Harassment for Gig Workers
All five platforms specified the need for both the service users and the service providers to exercise caution and take reasonable precautions before engaging in any agreement. Further, background checks are conducted more rigorously for the service providers, than the service users. However, the platforms withdraw the legal liability of any individual involved. For example, in the event of a service provider being harassed by a service user while providing the service, the issue will be termed a “dispute” and must be resolved independently by the two parties. Thus, there is no provision of registering a case of harassment.
The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 includes “any place visited by the ‘employee’ during the course of employment including the transportation.” Under this Act, women employees can claim formal accountability against the harasser and a resolution thereby. However, since gig platforms categorise gig workers as “independent contractors,” the Act does not protect them. To protect their workers, digital platforms must not only create a safer network of service providers and users, but also include “workplace harassment” in their dispute categories.
Another way to ensure the safety of service providers is to include them in the 2013 Act by introducing a new section pertaining to gig-economy workers. Women workers who face harassment could report to the specific platform through which they got that gig. The platform would then follow the clauses developed in the new section to reach a decision. Ultimately, any provision that permits women gig workers to depend on their platforms in the case of harassment will ensure a greater sense of security for women.
3. Social Security and Employment Benefits
Social Security and Lack of Data
The Government of India introduced the Social Security Code Bill in 2019. The draft code frames the role aggregators would play in the social security scheme. According to the proposal, an aggregator is “a digital intermediary or a marketplace for a buyer or user of a service to connect with the seller or the service provider.”
The Bill intends to set up a national social security board for unorganised workers and makes provisions for the formulation of social welfare schemes for them, such as provident fund, employment injury benefit, housing, educational for children, skill upgrade of workers, funeral assistance, and old-age homes. The board will also disseminate information about these provisions to the unorganised sector, and states will set up workers’ facilitation for the same. This is a commendable attempt at creating better working conditions and providing necessary social benefits to gig workers. However, the absence of a proper database for gig workers poses a significant challenge, since it makes the entire process of providing services rather difficult. While the government plans to collect data from various major aggregators, the scope of this will likely be very limited.
According to the Oxford Internet Institute’s “Online Labour Index,” India leads the global gig economy with a 24 percent share of the online labour market, implying an increasing number of people working as gig workers. Additionally, several estimates point to a great potential for growth for gig work in India. For instance, a PayPal report states that the Indian gig economy is expected to reach US$20-30 billion by 2025.
Thus, gig work must be included in a new category in the NSSO surveys to accurately ascertain the percentage of gig workers in the Indian economy. Data pertaining to the gig economy is essential to recognise the actual extent of gig work in India as well to understand where the labour force is employed. Moreover, such a database will help the government to better target their social security nets and develop evidence-based policies on the gig economy. It will also help highlight gaps in policy, allowing the government to curate better gender-based policy decisions on both macro and micro levels. Corporates too could use the data to understand the general service patterns, to analyse where the differences lie, and to identify the areas in which they could reskill or upskill their gig workers. Schemes pertaining to gig workers (e.g. the Code on Social Security) can be improved based on the data collected, and new safety and security measures can be added for women gig workers.
Gig workers are referred to as “independent contractors,” rendering them unable to obtain any social security benefits that accrue to a regular employee of the company. However, this categorisation is unfair to workers who either devote their entire work time to one specific aggregator or are so essential to the everyday work of the platforms that without them, the platforms would cease to exist. In such cases, the state must provide social security benefits to the worker. More importantly, the gig workers must be categorised in a better position so that they can benefit from the same advantages as an employee of the company, especially when their work and time is analogous to that of an employee.
Legislation in the UK provides a unique solution to this. The UK divides individuals into broadly three categories: self-employed, employees and a middle-category called “worker.” Gig workers can fall into any of these three categories. While the “self-employed” are entitled to almost no benefits and the “employees” have complete employment benefits including parental leave, the “worker” category is entitled to a minimum wage, paid vacation and pension. This division helps classify gig workers according to their working hours, mutuality of obligation, provision of services, devotion to one or more platforms, as well as the control exercised by the company over the worker. However, there is a caveat, wherein companies can choose to place their full-time employees into the “worker” category to withhold the full set of benefits. To prevent this from happening, the UK government provides all workers the right to contest their place in the organisation by taking up their case to HMRC (Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs) or the Government Pension Regulator.
Indian digital platforms can create a similar set of three categories to provide better benefits to those workers who are unfairly placed in the self-employed category, despite devoting most or all of their time to one aggregator. It would also lead to a better understanding of the percentage of actual gig workers, which will improve the database. To ensure the success of this model, gig workers must be educated on how to ascertain their placement in a company based on various factors. This will allow workers, especially those in the low-skilled category, to contest their placements if necessary and benefit from the schemes accordingly. Ultimately, this will also ensure the proper provision of social security benefits as per the 2019 Bill to the maximum number of people.
TABLE 1: Platforms Placed Against Suggested Recommendations
|Platforms/ Recommendations||Urban Clap|| Quikr
|Impact on Women Gig Workers|
|Dispute Redressal||X||X||X||X||X||Facilitates raising disputes to ensure ease of work.|
|Platform of Platforms*||–||–||–||–||–||Guidelines could provide and ensure digital safety.|
|Inclusion in Workplace Harassment Laws*||–||–||–||–||–||Space to report harassment, ensuring better and safe workplace.|
|Emergency Button||X||X||X||X||Ensures physical safety and protection against any harm.|
|Data Collection*||–||–||–||–||–||Leads to better facilitation of social security benefits.|
|Employment Contracts*||–||–||–||–||–||Helps provide appropriate benefits associated with work and a space to contest.|
*Recommendation needs legislative changes and isn’t present on any platform.
While the ambit of this brief is limited to low-skilled women gig workers, there is substantial scope for conducting similar, and more exhaustive, studies pertaining to high-skilled women gig workers. Such studies can focus on websites such as Freelancer and Upwork. It will be useful to look at the kind of barriers that these platforms present to women’s movement into gig work or how they put women at a disadvantage as compared to their male counterparts. Other areas of study could include the gender pay gap issue in the Indian platform economy, for both high- and low-skilled workers; the importance of privacy protection with regards to women gig workers; and gender bias in the algorithm-building process.
The gig economy seems to be the perfect way to facilitate the movement of more women into the workforce by making work flexible for them. After all, freelancing jobs and on-demand jobs do not rely on a physical workspace and provide the option of flexible work timings. This offers a much-desired alternative to the traditional setups that overburden working women, who often undertake most of the unpaid care work at home in addition to their full-time professions. With less representation in management, male-centric norms and rules tend to be imposed, rarely incorporating women’s necessities.
However, despite these advantages, data shows that the FLPR has gone down over the last two decades. Studies also show that gig work only reinforces the same gendered division of work that afflicts traditional work. Across countries, women working in the gig economy not only undertake unpaid care work but also spend just as much time on their gig jobs. The study conducted for this brief highlights that while the aggregators have “no-discrimination” clauses in their ToU, they categorically facilitate discrimination by providing ways to filter service professionals based on gender.
Removing these barriers and biases is crucial to facilitating the movement of women workers into the gig economy. The entry of women into the workforce enables their financial independence and solves problems owing to low representation. This brief suggests some changes that will ensure the digital and physical safety of women gig workers, as well as general recommendations concerning employment classification. While the government is currently considering implementing provisions pertaining to social security benefits, much more needs to be done to remove these barriers.
The gig economy is here to stay and offers many ways for women to start and improve their careers. However, hurdles remain that discourage women from participating in gig work in greater numbers. Legislation must pave the way for more women in the workforce, both gig and otherwise. Further, aggregators and platforms must work harder to improve the conditions of work for women. The future will only see more gig work, and the inclusion of women is critical for balanced growth.
[a] Gig workers are independent contractors, on demand workers, online platform workers and temporary workers, who fall outside the normal ‘employer-employee relationship’.
[b] The jobs undertaken by women gig workers in these platforms require some basic level of skill. For instance, the work done by cooks, beauty technicians or care workers can be considered “high-skilled work.” However, despite the skill level required, these jobs are categorised as low-skilled work and, in turn, have lower pay scales. Thus, the classification does not accurately represent the actual skill level required.
 Flipkart was founded in India in 2007.
 These include jobs such as domestic help, beauticians, cooks and nannies. The jobs may or may not require some basic skill levels.
 Maternity attrition rate is 35 percent of the total female attrition rate. See Rica Bhattacharyya, “Companies’ Gender Diversity Drive Yet to Bear Fruit”, The Economic Times, 10 December 2018.
 “Connected Women: The Mobile Gender Gap Report 2019”, GSM Association, 2019.
 PTI, “UP Khap Panchayat Bans Jeans, Mobile Phones for Girls”, The Hindu, 28 May 2016.
 The notion of “no-bias” comes from a prevalent idea that platform algorithms are objective.
 Brhmie Balaram, Josie Warden and Fabian Wallace-Stephens, “Good Gigs: A Fairer Future For The UK’S Gig Economy”, RSA, April 2017; Diana Farrell and Fiona Greig, “The Online Platform Economy: Has Growth Peaked?” Report, JP Morgan Chase, 15 November 2017.
 Abigail Hunt and Fortunate Machingura, op. cit.
 Cody Cook, Rebecca Diamond, Jonathan Hall, John A. List and Paul Oyer, “The Gender Earnings Gap in The Gig Economy: Evidence from Over A Million Rideshare Drivers”, Stanford University, 8 March 2019.
 “Women Bag Frontline Roles in Gig Economy, But Lag Behind in Wages”, The Economic Times.
 “58% Successful Gig Economy Professionals Are Women: Study”, United News of India, 8 September 2018.
 Any set of guidelines must incorporate data privacy protection for gig workers. To read more the importance of data privacy, see Danica Sergison, “Privacy risks for customers and workers in the gig economy”, Privacy International, 2 September 2018; “Case Study: The Gig Economy and Exploitation”, Privacy International, 20 August 2017.
 Any situation that might harm one’s emotional and physical safety, including sexual assault.
 Mainly includes credit background checks and letting both service providers and users exercise their judgement about the other.
 The platforms have algorithms that ensure the parties are not bots and have an authentic national identity and credible credit. However, the background checks are more exhaustive for service providers than for service users.
 “The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013”, Government of India.
 The Act could start with clauses that are relatively more feasible to implement.
 Yogima Seth Sharma and Kirtika Suneja, “Professional Bodies and Gig Economy Players to File Data on Jobs; Govt to Notify Framework for Collating Data”, The Economic Times, 13 August 2019.
 “Where Are Online Workers Located? The International Division of Digital Gig Work”, The ilabour, Project, University of Oxford, 11 July 2017.
 Sona Mitra, “Women and Unpaid Work in India: A Macroeconomic Overview”, IWWAGE, 7 March 2019.
 With less representation in management, male-centric norms and rules tend to be imposed, rarely incorporating women’s necessities.
 Undertaking measures to improve women’s inclusion in gig work will benefit the platforms not only by attracting more women workers but also ensuring greater governmental, public and social support.
iPSE-US, SBA, KIVA and ITA Host Gig Economy webinar on access to capital for independent workers in U.S.
Carl Camden, Founder and Chairman of iPSE-US
Paul Thanos, Director Office of Finance and Insurance Industries US Department of Commerce/International Trade Administration
Roderick Johnson, Lender Relations/SBDC Project Officer at U.S. Small Business Administration
Anne Luftkin, Partnership Manager- Kiva US
WASHINGTON, July 09, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — iPSE-U.S. (The Association of Independent Workers) in collaboration with the SBA, Kiva and the ITA announced today at a special webinar event centered around the Gig Economy and access to capital and resources for independent workers. There are approximately 60 million Independent workers in the United States; representing $1.5 trillion in U.S. GDP and growing. Projections estimate that 50% of our US workforce will be independent workers by 2025- 2030.
This will be a joint webinar with the Small Business Administration and iPSE-U.S. – The Association of Independent Workers.
The webinar will present an overview of SBA’s programs with a particular eye to programs of interest to independent and gig economy workers (1099 Workers).
- Learn about the available SBA loan programs for independent/gig workers.
- Learn about fintech-based microloans for independent/gig workers.
- Learn the challenges facing about independent/gig workers in the current economy, including the COVID-19 impact.
- Learn about iPSE-US, support the 60 million independent workers with by providing access to over 1 million available gig jobs, access portable benefits programs, financial resources and education tools by being a free member.
- Ask questions to the presenters and receive answers.
5-7 min: Introduction: ITA (Paul Thanos)
- Why focused on independent workers and “Gig Economy”
15 min: Dr. Carl Camden, Founder Chairman – iPSE-U.S.
- About “Gig Economy” and the addressable market
20 min: SBA Speaker 1 – Overview of SBA Loan Programs for Gig Workers
- Rod Johnson, Lender Relations Specialist
20 min: Kiva – Microloans for Gig Workers
- Anne Lufkin, Regional Manager
20 min: Q&A
5-7 min: Closing/Summary ITA (Colin Leach)
Event Title: Access to Financing: SBA Programs for Independent Workers Webinar
Start Time: 10:00 AM EDT
Date: July 9, 2020
Organizations: ITA/SBA/iPSE-U.S. Kiva
Hosted By: International Trade Administration (ITA)
Created in 1953, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) continues to help small business owners and entrepreneurs pursue the American dream. The SBA is the only cabinet-level federal agency fully dedicated to small business and provides counseling, capital, and contracting expertise as the nation’s only go-to resource and voice for small businesses.
For more information: https://www.sba.gov
Established in 2005 as the world’s first personal micro-lending website, Kiva’s mission is to expand financial access to help underserved communities thrive. We are working to expand financial access by crowdfunding loans and unlocking capital for the underserved, improving the quality and cost of financial services, and addressing the underlying barriers to financial access around the world. Since its founding, Kiva has raised a combined $1.4B for loans for more than 3.6M entrepreneurs in 94 countries.
For more information: https://www.kiva.org
About the International Trade Administration (ITA)
The International Trade Administration (ITA) is the premier resource for American companies competing in the global marketplace. ITA has more than 2,200 employees assisting U.S. exporters in more than 100 U.S. cities and 75 markets worldwide. ITA works to improve the global business environment and helps U.S. organizations compete at home and abroad.
ITA works with its Strategic Partners in support of ITA’s mission to strengthen the competitiveness of U.S. industry, promote trade and investment, and ensure fair trade through the rigorous enforcement of our trade laws and agreements. Partnership activities help to grow the U.S. exporter base, educate the public about the benefits of international trade, and increase awareness of ITA and other government resources available to assist exporters and investors.
For more information visit: www.trade.gov
iPSE-U.S., “The National Association of Independent Workers” is not-for-profit membership organization that aggregates and provides insurance and benefits products, access to over 1 million gig jobs and directories, financial services, educational tools for independent workers of all types. iPSE-U.S. supports advocacy initiatives and secures benefits programs specifically for 1099 Independent Workers; Contractors, Consultants, Freelancers, Self-Employed, Gig Workers, Small Business Owners and the newly unemployed who are seeking gig-work.
iPSE-U.S. offers a free membership program to honor the over 60 million independent workers; individuals, small, medium and large organizations that make up the gig-economy. iPSE-U.S. provides enterprise HR workforce solutions to support their uninsured 1099 Independent Workers with portable benefits programs in collaboration providers including; iWorker Innovations and others.
Photos accompanying this announcement are available at:
Wrestling news: WWE’s Mike ‘The Miz’ Mizanin lands new TV gig
SI.com’s Week in Wrestling is published every week and provides beneath the surface coverage of the business of pro wrestling.
Mike “The Miz” Mizanin: John Morrison ‘will be WWE Champion, and it’s my goal to get him there’
Mike “The Miz” Mizanin won the WWE Championship in November 2010 when he cashed in his “Money in the Bank” contract against Randy Orton. A decade later, he is looking to create a similar moment for John Morrison.
“John will be WWE Champion, and it’s my goal to get him there,” said Mizanin. “He would be an outstanding WWE Champion. Some of the stuff he can do is incredible, he’s so entertaining. He’s a friend that has my back, and I have his, too.”
Mizanin and Morrison have been working together since the latter’s return to WWE in January. They had a run with the SmackDown tag titles, as well as a Universal title program with Braun Strowman, and even created a new music video together.
“Now we have two have hit songs, ‘Hey Hey’ and ‘HEY! Hey Hey,’” said Mizanin. “Can you believe those are the titles? But working with John, I’ve never had more fun in my life. John really pushes me to do things I’m normally not as comfortable doing.”
Mizanin is stepping outside of WWE for a new project, providing analysis for the new Cannonball show, a 10-part series that premieres Thursday night on USA Network. He co-hosts alongside Rosci Diaz, overseeing a water-based competition where the winner receives $10,000.
“I’m supposed to be the expert, but I’ve never seen these games before in my life, and no one else has either,” said Mizanin. “But it’s not me, it’s the contestants that make the show. You get to watch people climb up a 100-foot mega slide, and you can see the fear in people’s eyes. And watching people face their fears, seeing those different levels of emotions, that makes the show.”
Mizanin is one of the most active stars in WWE. In addition to helping raise a two-year-old and eight-month-old, he has 14 new episodes of his Miz & Mrs show coming to USA Network this fall, and now introduces viewers to Cannonball, serving as a real-life version of commentator Pepper Brooks from Dodgeball.
“When I put the headset on, it feels like home,” said the 39-year-old Mizanin. “I’ve been able to host a bunch of shows, from MTV’s Challenge reunion to Champs vs. Stars for two seasons, and being a WWE superstar has prepared me for everything that entertainment has to offer. Coming into Cannonball, it’s a different atmosphere. I’m working with Rocsi Diaz, who is incredible, and Simon Gibson, our sideline reporter, had us laughing the entire time. I feel like he’ll be a household name in 10 years.”
Creating new content for viewers is a constant goal for Mizanin, who remains hungry for more success despite already being one of WWE’s longest-tenured talents.
“If I’m not on every poster and the entire show isn’t on my back, then I’m not where I want to be,” said Mizanin. “I want to be the top star, the go-to guy, and that’s my ultimate goal. And I want to show what WWE talent has to offer, which is what I want to show in Cannonball and with Miz & Mrs.”
Due to the pandemic, there is an entirely new set of challenges associated with producing television. WWE continues filming its weekly shows at the company’s Performance Center in Orlando, where Mizanin says he feels comfortable with WWE’s testing policy and safety procedures.
“I feel safe every time I walk into the PC,” said Mizanin. “WWE is really looking out for us. Everyone is getting tested, they’re doing their due diligence. WWE is giving people entertainment. People need entertainment right now, some fun, and that’s what we’re giving them every week.”
Next month’s SummerSlam is a major show for WWE, and Miz has opponents in mind for himself and John Morrison: a tag team match against Drew Gulak and Daniel Bryan.
“Any time I get to beat up Daniel Bryan, it’s one of my favorite things to do in WWE,” said Mizanin. “And any time I get to beat up a person that envies Daniel Bryan, that’s also one of my favorite things, too.”
As The Miz’s next story plays out on SmackDown, he hopes his fans will also invest their time in Cannonball.
“It’s fun, it’s exciting, it’s competitive, and I hope people watch with their entire family,” said Mizanin. “Come enter into our reality, let us entertain you.”
Mother and son reunion at AEW’s FyterFest
A highlight of last Wednesday’s Fyter Fest was the entrance of Chuck Taylor and Trent. The Best Friends arrived in style, being driven into Daily’s Place in Jacksonville for their match against AEW tag champs Kenny Omega and Hangman Page.
Or, perhaps more appropriately, they were dropped off.
The two wrestlers—who, along with Orange Cassidy, all have massive potential for AEW—rode in the backseat of a minivan driven by Trent’s mother, and Trent received a kiss from his mom after thanking her for the ride.
The moment was lighthearted, designed to be an intentional break from the tension of the main event. But upon closer glance, there is deeper meaning entrenched in that moment, especially in the smile on the face of Mrs. Marasciulo, the mother of AEW star Trent (Greg Marasciulo).
“I loved having that moment with my son,” said Sue Marasciulo. “I used to drive him everywhere. He first started wrestling in this old garage when he was only 15. It was an hour from where we lived, but he was so insistent on going. The other kids were 19 and 20, so there was a big age difference, but he said, ‘I’ve got to do this,’ so I said OK.”
Trent, Taylor and Orange Cassidy are three of AEW’s rising stars, but all three have paid their dues to reach this moment, with Trent even having a run in New Japan and time spent in WWE. His mother never doubted that her son would make a livelihood out of pro wrestling.
“I always believed he could turn this into a career because of his dedication,” said Marasciulo. “There would be nights when he couldn’t come to dinner on time because he was watching WWE. He’d be watching something in slow-mo, studying a wrestler’s move, and he’d call to me and say, ‘I’ll be right there! This is important!’ He was 24-7 with wrestling. I was hoping he would be this successful and happy in his career.”
Marasciulo never expected to be part of last week’s show, but having a mom drop off two best friends served as a wonderful way to highlight The Best Friends.
“This was Greg’s idea,” said Marasciulo. “He texted me last week and said, ‘Hey Ma, how would you like to drive us into the ring on TV?’ And I was like, ‘What?’ He needed to check to make sure it was OK. Once he found out that it was, I said, ‘Sure, why not.’ So he flew into Myrtle Beach, and we drove into Jacksonville together. It was so much fun.”
Though there have been countless car rides between mother and son, there were never video cameras capturing the moment for live television on TNT. Marasciulo shared that this experience was an entirely new environment for her.
“I was so, so nervous,” said Marasciulo. “At the same time, when it was done, I was so, so excited. Everyone said it went well. I never thought, after all those car rides, we’d ever have something like this happen. It was such a special, important moment, and it was such a good feeling to be able to share it with my Greggy.”
Mike Verna in new Philadelphia Cream Cheese commercial
Mike Verna is the new face of Philadelphia Cream Cheese.
The 28-year-old pro wrestler has some strong chops for acting, which are on display in his new commercial for Philadelphia Cream Cheese’s “My First Cheesecake” ad.
Verna, whose real name is Mike Taverna, takes a unique route to baking the delicacy, including a steel chair. And the finished product, a perfectly baked cheesecake, was the result of a family effort.
In fact, two of the co-stars in the commercial are family.
“That’s really my dad in the commercial, and the baby is my nephew,” said Verna. “When I got the part, my agent said that everything would be shot remotely. I’d get a kit, all the cameras and the lighting, and all I could think was, if I got this spot, how the hell was I going to do this?”
Filmed from his parents’ home in Brooklyn, New York, Verna teamed with his family to create the video. In addition to cameos from his father and nephew, Verna’s mother helped with the lighting, and his girlfriend worked the camera.
“This was my whole family putting together a national commercial with an iPhone camera and a lot of people yelling at me through Zoom,” said a laughing Verna. “With the pandemic, the director and cinematographer were on Zoom. I was impressed, it looks professionally done.”
Verna was recruited by an agent from BMG Talent after seeing him wrestle for EVOLVE at a show in Brooklyn, and he has gained experience by starring in a couple of pilots that have yet to be green-lit. He is looking to harness this momentum into an exclusive deal with a wrestling promotion.
“I want to sign somewhere where I’ll still have the ability to act,” said Verna, who started training in 2011 at the New York Wrestling Connection. “There is one place where I would like to be, and it would be dynamite if we do.
“I got into acting through wrestling. It was never something I necessarily wanted to pursue, but professional wrestling is a form of acting, so I gave it a shot. This is my first national commercial, and we’ll see what happens next.”
The (online) week in wrestling
- The most fascinating piece of last Wednesday’s NXT-AEW ratings battle was the jump on the USA Network when Sasha Banks started her match in the main event against Io Shirai. Banks, who wrestled Kairi Sane in an entertaining match on Raw, is quickly becoming one of the top draws in WWE across all three brands.
- The second nights of AEW’s Fyter Fest and NXT’s Great American Bash each take place tonight. Both shows offer really solid lineups. AEW has Lance Archer-Joey Janela, Nyla Rose in action, a new promo from Taz, an eight-man tag pitting the Young Bucks and FTR against the Lucha Bros. and The Butcher and The Blade, and a really exciting main event of Chris Jericho taking on Orange Cassidy in the biggest match of his career.
- NXT has Isaiah Scott-Johnny Gargano, Mia Yim against Candice LaRae in a street match, a six-man tag of Breezango and Drake Maverick vs. Santos Escobar’s El Legado del Fantasma unit, and a title-vs.-title match pitting NXT Champion Adam Cole against North American Champion Keith Lee.
- After all he and his family have done for WWE over the years, it is a tough pill to swallow to know that WWE is holding onto the trademark for the name Cody Rhodes.
- Heath Slater’s return to Raw on Monday was extremely well done, and he cut a tremendous promo before his match with Drew McIntyre. Slater has potential, but wherever he lands, he needs to be built correctly after years of establishing himself solely as a comedy act.
- The New Japan Cup finals are set for this weekend, with Kazuchika Okada meeting EVIL in the finale. The winner will challenge IWGP Heavyweight and Intercontinental Champion Tetsuya Naito the following night at Dominion, and both shows will have fans at Osaka-Jo Hall.
- Brian Pillman Jr. is a fantastic addition for AEW. For those who have followed him in MLW, he is constantly elevating his work in both the ring and on the mic, and his arrival adds more energy to the roster.
- The New World Order was formed 24 years ago yesterday, marking the biggest moment in wrestling history and the start of a five-year stretch that has yet to be matched.
- If you cannot consume enough content about Andre The Giant, then this clip is for you. Between mocking Jim Duggan’s trademark thumbs-up gesture to, as Tony Schiavone aptly calls it, his “Rude swivel,” the clip captures some of Andre’s brilliance.
- Chris Jericho shared a piece of his own history that took place two-and-a-half decades ago and forever changed his career.
Conrad Thompson previews this week’s edition of ‘Something to Wrestle with Bruce Prichard’
A new episode of Something to Wrestle with Bruce Prichard is set for this Friday, as Prichard and co-host Conrad Thompson look at the career of Kevin Nash in WWE.
“The first thing we’ll look at is Kevin’s jump to WWE in 1993,” said Thompson. “He went from no traction and no money in WCW to working with big time stars in WWE, and we’ll talk about how the whole Diesel character came to be. And what is Diesel? Is he a truck driver? Bruce and Vince McMahon disagreed on how to present him.”
Nash is one of wrestling’s most charismatic personalities, though his 358-day run with the WWE title that began in 1994 was a largely disappointing stretch for the man who went on to set the wrestling world aflame with the NWO.
“It’s become wrestling lore that Diesel was the worst drawing champion in WWE history, but how much of that is fair?” asked Thompson. “How much of that was Nash and how much was creative? And who was actually drawing money in that era in wrestling?
“We’ll also talk about the way he leaves. He had some awesome matches with Shawn and Undertaker on the way out, but it feels like there is a hotly-debated topic about how his departure from WWE went down. Kevin has his version, Bruce has his, so there is a ton of meat on the bone here, and we’ll look at The Kliq, too, where Kevin is one of the drivers.”
In addition to his role in the NWO, Nash also became the booker in WCW, establishing himself behind the curtain.
“Kevin became a power broker in WCW,” said Thompson. “He actually got the book, and there is always going to be controversy when that happens. And it will be really interesting to hear from Bruce on how Vince responded to stars that he created leaving for WCW. They came to Vince to be stars, then left for bigger pay days. I’m most interested in picking Bruce’s brain on what it was like for Vince.”
Tweet of the Week
If you’ve ever been to the Kowloon Restaurant in Saugus, Mass., then no explanation is necessary.
Only 7% gig economy workers are registered with Socso
More workers should register to benefit from the protection provided under Penjana Gig
by DASHVEENJIT KAUR/ pic by HUSSEIN SHAHARUDDIN
AWARENESS level among gig workers on the importance of having social and financial protection is still low, as only 7% or 28,425 gig economy workers are registered with the Social Security Organisation (Socso) so far.
Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz (picture) said the government hopes that more workers will contribute to Socso to benefit from the protection provided under the short-term National Economy Recovery Plan (Penjana) Gig.
“According to Socso, from January 2020 until now, only 28,425 (7%) gig economy workers out of their target of 400,000 workers are registered with Socso,” he said when presenting the 11th report of the Prihatin Rakyat economic stimulus package and Penjana yesterday.
“At a cost of RM232.80 annually, the government subsidises 70% (RM163) and 30% (RM69.80) is provided by the platform provider,” he added.
To promote the gig economy and provide a social safety net system for the gig economy and informal sector workforce, the minister said the government would facilitate policies to support the growth of the gig economy and the welfare of its workers through several initiatives and funds under Penjana.
The funds include a matching grant of up to RM50 million for gig economy platforms who contribute to their gig workers towards Socso’s employment injury scheme of up to RM162 and Employees Provident Fund’s (EPF) i-Saraan contribution of up to RM250 yearly.
Additionally, there would be RM25 million for the Malaysia Digital Economy Corp’s (MDEC) Global Online Workforce (GLOW) programme, which will train Malaysians to earn income from serving international clients while working from home online.
Tengku Zafrul said he has also had the opportunity to meet with some of the workers and employers who benefitted from the Penjana Gig Programme and its social security.
“Under the Penjana Gig initiative, several engagement sessions were held with agriculture, hawkers, passenger transportation, goods and food sectors, and over 38 gig platform service providers.
“Alhamdulillah (God willing), the assistance received was effective and has helped to ease the burden of business cashflow, as well as save jobs,” he explained.
My30 Programme and PenjanaKerjaya
Highlighting other Penjana initiatives, Tengku Zafrul shared that as at June 30, a total of 77,790 of My30 unlimited monthly travel passes for commuters in the Klang Valley had been sold.
“The government’s subsidy for these passes is valued at RM13.2 million,” he said.
Secondly, as of July 6, 2020, the PenjanaKerjaya, which is the hiring incentive and training assistance programme, with a government allocation of RM1.5 billion, have seen 106,308 job vacancies advertised, and 123,919 job seekers were registered through the MYFutureJobs initiative.
Bantuan Prihatin Nasional (BPN)
Achieved a 97.5% implementation rate, with the total number of BPN recipients stood at 10.25 million, valuing at RM10.92 billion.
Between June 26 and July 6, around 30,000 BPN recipients received their payments via Bank Simpanan Nasional branches nationwide. As for the BPN appellants group, 140,000 single individuals and households had received the BPN assistance amounting to RM120 million from an allocation of RM139 million.
Cash Incentives for Taxi Drivers, Tour Guides and Tour Bus Drivers
As at July 6, the government had assisted 28,962 taxi drivers amounting to RM17.4 million for recipients from the first phase.
For the second phase recipients, the appeal date was closed on July 1, and the appeals are currently under review with payment expected to be made in mid-July.
Additionally, 7,414 tour guides received RM4.4 million cash aid. The status of tour bus drivers are still being updated and the result will be announced by the end of this month.
Prihatin Special Grant for Micro SMEs
Total disbursement as of Monday was approximately RM1.63 billion, benefitting 544,632 Micro small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
Wage Subsidy Programme
RM7.15 billion had been approved for 310,622 employers benefitting more than 2.48 million employees up till this week.
Socso has been entrusted with the implementation of RM17 billion worth of measures.
EPF’s Covid-19 Assistance Programme
Has seen 37,900 receivers and 10,528 applications approved, amounting to RM70.4 million in terms of employers’ contribution.
SME Soft Loan Funds
Administered by Bank Negara Malaysia, the fund have had total financing amounting to RM8.7 billion approved by local banks and officially accepted by SMEs, and this has benefitted 20,104 SMEs.
Loan Repayment Moratorium by Financial Institutions
The moratorium, which took effect on April 1, 2020, has an estimated value of RM51.4 billion as of this week.
Out of this figure, a total of RM17.9 billion was utilised by the business sector while the remaining was utilised by the rakyat.
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