Why Gig Work is Here to Stay and How We Need New Laws and Institutions for Them

How Gig Work Went Mainstream and is Here to Stay and Why We Need to Respond

One of the more notable trends of the last decade or so has been the explosion in Gig Work or Part Time work wherein stringers and individuals work for Digital Platform Aggregators such as Amazon, Uber, and Urban Company, as well as for established Blue Chip firms in Manufacturing and Services.

Indeed, Gig Work has been the event of the last decade as firms in all sectors realized the value of Part Timers, not only to save costs, but also to optimize what is essentially piecemeal work that does not need full timers.

Moreover, with the nature of work itself changing and with the profusion of Digital Technologies, work no longer means something that is done in Physical and Fixed settings, but anywhere, everywhere, any time, and every time. For instance, task outsourcing firms such as Upwork can get done by Armies of Gig Workers located anywhere in the world whereas Cab Aggregators such as Uber do not need Full Time commitment from their Drivers.

All this has changed the nature of employment as we know it leading to newer forms of work and workers.

While Gig Work Sounds Exciting, the Reality is harsh and hard for Gig Workers

Having said that, while all this sounds exciting as Gig Work liberates the workers from having to remain loyal to a specific firm and instead, allows them to work for whomever they want, whenever they want, and wherever they want, the reality is that Gig Workers are more exploited and overworked than full timers without the attendant healthcare and social security benefits that the latter have.

The result has been an Epidemic of Stress and Burnout among Gig Workers that has been made worse due to the complete absence and lack of support from their employers.

Indeed, while Full Timers have their Annual Vacations, Sick Leaves, and Healthcare coverage as well as Social Security benefits, Gig Workers are at the mercy of external forces over which they have no control.

For instance, if someone who works for Uber or Task Rabbit falls ill or needs time off for personal and pressing work, he or she has to necessarily forego pay for that day in addition to having to pay out of pocket expenses for hospitalization and the like.

Worse, Gig Workers are also as good as their last assignment which means that they can be De-platformed for even minor infractions.

How Governments and Private Firms Worldwide Are Responding to Gig Workers

Therefore, it is our argument that Governments and Businesses worldwide wake up to the realities of Gig Work and take steps that would protect this vulnerable segment of society from disaster.

Already some states such as California in the United States are moving to legalize Gig Work and make Gig Workers eligible for some benefits, if not all that part timers receive.

Moreover, the United States anyway provides Unemployment Assistance to Gig Workers and moves are afoot by the Biden Administration to extend more such benefits to them.

The Indian Government too has made a start in this regard with the Latest Budget Proposals assuring state and private forms of assistance to Gig Workers.

The point here is that Governments must also nudge the Private Sector to do more for their Part Timers not only as a humanitarian imperative, but also from a purely cost benefit point of view as they ought not to kill the Golden Goose that Lays the Eggs.

In other words, considering the humungous cost savings to such firms from Gig Workers, it is only natural that they get something in return for their services.

With Gig Work projected to grow exponentially, benefits too must reach them.

Why Issues Related to Ownership, Responsibility and Accountability Need to be Addressed

Another argument why Gig Workers need more assistance, recognition, and rewards is that at the moment, the distinction and the categorization of such work is hazy and confusing that is leading to unintended consequences for both the workers and their employers.

The question of responsibility and accountability looms large as far as how mishaps and accidents in the line of duty are treated. Suppose an Uber driver is involved in an accident either through negligence or due to factors beyond his or her control.

The question of who pays the compensation to the victims as well as the damages is still unclear as are wider questions regarding whether Uber would provide legal and administrative assistance to their drivers by way of any action that the authorities may take against them.

In addition, without secure employment, it is natural for Gig Workers to work in multiple platforms that again bring to the fore issues related to payment of benefits.

The only way out of this would be for the Governments to create a Fund, with contributions from the Platform Economy and the Physical Firms for Gig Workers that can be used to provide succour and assistance in the situations described above.

Social Contract for the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Last, the world is in the throes of what experts have described as the Fourth Industrial Revolution that is beginning to redraw our notions of work, leisure, employment, and broader ways of living.

It is only natural that we take steps to redefine these times for the New Realities. In the same manner in which the First Industrial Revolution led to the creation and passage of institutions and laws that were aimed at the then work and employment conditions, the emerging and changing rules of the game need a new approach to the Post Pandemic New Normal in the world.

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Economics of Human Resources