By Salman SH
Cab-hailing firms Ola, Uber and logistics start-up Porter scored poorly in the annual Fairwork India Ratings 2021 which examines working conditions of gig economy staffers in the country. The three companies received zero points on a 10-point table system which measured five parameters including fair pay, fair conditions, fair contracts, fair management, and fair representation.
This year, 11 platforms were evaluated by the Fairwork India team at the Centre for IT and Public Policy (CITAPP), International Institute of Information Technology Bangalore (IIITB), in partnership with the global Fairwork network. For each platform, 19-20 worker interviews were conducted, divided evenly between Bengaluru and Delhi during the period May 2021 – November 2021
Food delivery companies including Zomato and Swiggy, however, moved up in the Fairwork Ratings this year. Swiggy, which employs over 250,000 gig workers in India, earned a 4-point score while Zomato, which employees around 300,000 workers, scored 3 points on the Fairwork Rating scale.
E-commerce major Flipkart led the ratings with a 7-point score followed by Urban Company with 5 points, and grocery delivery start-up BigBasket with 4 points. E-commerce marketplace Amazon, hyperlocal delivery platform Dunzo and healthcare platform PharmEasy earned only 1 point each.
Fairwork India said that the past year brought in “unprecedented social and economic consequences” to gig economy platforms amidst the Covid-19. The impact has varied by sector with ride-hailing platforms taking the biggest hit in terms of demand for work itself.
The report mentions that demand for the ride-hailing sector declined due to the mobility restrictions imposed either by the government or self-imposed by consumers, to avoid the risk of contagion. “However, these mobility restrictions only increased the demand for delivery and e-commerce platforms among those unable or unwilling to leave their homes to satisfy their personal needs,” Fairwork India added in its report.
While not all platforms underwent a decline in demand, gig workers’ take-home earnings declined across all the platforms due to the increase in work-related costs such as fuel costs and platform commission. “This year, BigBasket, Flipkart, and Urban Company committed to ensuring that all gig workers on their platforms will earn at least the hourly local minimum wage after factoring in their work-related costs,” the report added.
Although several platforms introduced Covid-19 safety measures for workers, along with new insurance policies only Flipkart and Urban Company were awarded points under the ‘fair conditions’ principle. Additionally, BigBasket, Flipkart, Swiggy, and Zomato were awarded the basic point under the fair contracts parameter. Flipkart, Swiggy, and Zomato modified their contracts for gig workers to reduce the asymmetry in liabilities between gig workers and platforms, which earned them an additional point in the ‘fair contracts’ parameter.
However, none of the 11 platforms earned any points for ‘fair representation at the workplace. Fairwork India said that representation through a collective body or trade unions is a vital dimension of fairness at work.
“It is disconcerting to note that despite the rise in gig worker collectivisation in the country, none of the platforms studied expressed a willingness to recognise a collective body of workers. No platform earned either the basic or the advanced (additional) point on this principle,” the report said.
Professors Balaji Parthasarathy and Janaki Srinivasan of the International Institute of Information Technology, Bangalore, were the Principal Investigators of the team. Researchers Mounika Neerukonda, Pradyumna Taduri, Amruta Mahuli, Kanikka Sersia, and Funda Ustek-Spilda, constituted the rest of the team.