New Delhi: India had around 77 lakh gig workers in 2020-21, up from 68 lakh in 2019-20, constituting 2.6 per cent of the non-farm workforce, or 1.5 per cent of the total workforce, in the country, according to a report launched by federal think tank Niti Aayog Monday.
In an indication of how the gig economy is set to grow in future, the report — ‘India’s Booming Gig and Platform Economy: Perspectives and Recommendations on Future of Work’ — says that the gig workforce is expected to expand to 2.35 crore workers by 2029-30 and constitute 4.1 per cent of the total livelihood in India.
The Ministry of Labour defines a gig worker as a person who engages in income-earning activities outside of a traditional employer-employee relationship, as well as in the informal sector. A gig worker who uses platforms, such as websites or apps like Ola, Uber, Dunzo, Zomato, Swiggy or Urban Company, to connect with customers is called a platform worker.
Currently, there are severe data gaps when it comes to estimating the size of the gig economy in India. The Niti Aayog report has taken into account the limited data that is available on employment and other related aspects to estimate the size of the gig workforce by building on assumptions derived from micro and macro studies in the country. However, the report makes it clear that the estimation is only indicative and may not represent the true size of the gig workforce.
The gap in data is despite the fact that the “gig economy has proven its resilience and potential even in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic by continuing to unlock jobs in the millions and keeping communities connected”, the report shows.
But in the absence of any regulation, gig workers are often at the receiving end of labour law violations. To address this, the Ministry of Labour and Employment has bought them under the ambit of the new labour codes. The social security code has a separate category for gig workers.
However, the labour codes have not been notified yet. Once notified, gig workers would be able to avail various social security benefits.
Retail trade, sales take lion’s share
According to the Niti Aayog study, a majority of the gig workers — about 26.6 lakh (2.7 million) — were involved in retail trade and sales, and about 13 lakh (1.3 million) were in the transportation sector.
About 6.2 lakh (0.6 million) were in manufacturing and another 6.3 lakh (0.6 million) in the finance and insurance activities.
The retail sector saw an increase of 15 lakh (1.5 million) workers during 2011-12 to 2019-20, transport sector 7.8 lakh (0.8 million), and manufacturing 3.9 lakh (0.4 million). In the education sector, the expansion was from 66,000 to more than 1 lakh by 2019-20, the report says.
At present, about 47 per cent of the gig work is in medium-skilled jobs, about 22 per cent in high-skilled, and about 31 per cent in low-skilled jobs. However, the report, released by Niti Aayog’s Vice-Chairperson Suman Bery, CEO Amitabh Kant and Special Secretary Dr K. Rajeswara Rao, states that the trend shows the concentration of workers in medium skills is gradually declining and that of the low-skilled and high-skilled is increasing.
“This report will become a valuable knowledge resource in understanding the potential of the sector and drive further research and analysis on gig and platform work,” said Bery, speaking at the launch.
CEO Amitabh Kant highlighted the job creation potential of this sector given the rising urbanisation and widespread access to the Internet, digital technologies and smartphones in India.
As the gig workforce is invisible in the absence of official data, the report has recommended undertaking a separate enumeration exercise to estimate its size, and to identify the characteristic features of gig workers.
To harness the potential of the gig-platform sector, the report recommends accelerating access to finance through products specifically designed for platform workers, and linking “self-employed individuals engaged in the business of selling regional and rural cuisine, street food, etc.”, with platforms to enable them to sell their produce to wider markets in towns and cities.
(Edited by Tony Rai)