Gig Economy: Uber, Ola Ranked As Worst Performers By Fairwork India Index

Increase in work-related costs, along with a continued decrease in rates, pushed earnings even lower for gig workers.

Gig Economy: Uber, Ola Ranked As Worst Performers By Fairwork India Index

Despite some normalisation of economic conditions, gig workers continued to face harsh working conditions in 2021, according to the Fairwork India report for 2021.

"While not all platforms experienced a decline in demand for their services, workers’ take-home earnings declined across all the platforms studied, in part owing to the increase in work-related costs (such as fuel costs and platform commissions)," the report said. "This decline is also in keeping with the long-term decline in the incomes of workers due to a decrease in rate cards and incentives."

The Fairwork India report is compiled by the Centre for IT and Public Policy and the International Institute of Information Technology Bangalore, in association with Oxford University. The study, which assesses working conditions across a number of parameters, has become one measure to assess how fair these conditions are for gig workers. Parameters assessed include pay, working conditions, contract fairness, management, and representation, among others.

The 2021 study scores Flipkart as the best in terms of fair working conditions, followed by Urban Company and Swiggy. Uber, Ola and Porter were at the bottom of the index and scored zero points.

Emails were sent to the companies ranked on the index on Wednesday. Swiggy declined to comment and pointed to a company blog which lists partner initiatives.

A spokesperson for Amazon India told BloombergQuint that the findings of the study do not accurately reflect working conditions. "Associates are paid market competitive rates and are provided with additional benefits like insurance, on site vaccination support, among other benefits," an Amazon spokesperson said.

Krishna Raghavan, chief people officer of Flipkart, said the company has a host of initiatives that extend medical care for employees and their family members, provide industry-specific training to enhance the partner's growth opportunities, and inclusion for the differently abled.

Others are yet to respond.

Gig Economy—How Deep Is The Discontent?

Fair Pay

The Fairwork Index found that take-home earnings of gig workers declined in 2021. However, a few platforms moved to protect their partners.

BigBasket, Flipkart, and Urban Company were the only ones to offer pay based on local minimum wages. Flipkart and Urban Company also provided pay protection by compensating lost income amid the pandemic. Additionally, Urban Company has expressed willingness to publish an earning index for its workers every six months.

Fair Conditions

Amid the pandemic, companies evolved their services to accommodate safety measures and also extended insurance coverage to their partners.

However, only Flipkart, Urban Company and Amazon earned points in this category. These platforms have implemented accident insurance policies, improved claims processes, made provision of masks and sanitisers, organised vaccination drives and insurance cover for partners.

An advanced point was awarded to companies that provided monetary support and ensured that partners returning after a sabbatical aren't at a disadvantage.

Each Fairwork principle is broken down into two points — a basic point and a more advanced point that can only be awarded if the basic point has been fulfilled.

Fair Contracts

Only BigBasket, Flipkart, Swiggy and Zomato earned a basic point here due to the availability of multi-lingual agreements and a notification policy that informs and engages with partners about upcoming changes.

Compared to last year, Swiggy and Zomato have scored higher thanks to modified contracts that reduce the asymmetry in liabilities between gig workers and platforms, earning them an advanced point. Both the apps shall soon incorporate clauses to refund any wrongful monetary losses suffered by workers in identified circumstances.

Fair Management

A point was allotted to companies that had procedures for grievance redressal and a direct communication channel with the partners. An advanced point was awarded for inclusive hiring from marginalised populations.

BigBasket, Flipkart, Swiggy and Urban Company have agreed to start regular audits that check for bias within their tech stack. This is to ensure work allocation processes are equal and no gig worker is left out.

Fair Representation

No platform scored points for fair representation this year despite the rise of collective bodies that represent gig workers.

"None of the platforms studied expressed a willingness to recognise a collective body of workers," the report emphasised.

App-based transport workers and the All India Gig Workers’ Union are at the forefront and even though they aren't recognised by the companies, they have managed to raise awareness across social media to collectively improve their work conditions, the report said.

Fed-Up Gig Workers Emerge as Fledgling Political Force in India