Indian women don’t like being gig workers ⁠— the potentially $455 billion industry has to woo them with fair pay to start with

Swiggy female delivery partnerBCCL

  • India is the second largest market of freelance professionals in the world, after the United States. That accounts for nearly 15 million professionals in the country.
  • Despite the growth, women refrain from pursuing gig work.
  • That is majorly because of the gender disparity in terms of pay, flexibility and employment status.
  • There are at least two surveys that explain the lag in the labour reforms for women.
India is the second largest market of freelance professionals in the world, after the United States. That accounts for nearly 15 million professionals in the country. In fact, as India Inc moves to evaluating an ‘alternative workforce model’ with gig workers and freelancers, the demand is only going to rise.

But despite the growth, women refrain from pursuing gig work. That is majorly because of the gender disparity in terms of pay, flexibility and employment status — that prevails in the gig economy as well. This also reflects in the Female Labour Force Participation Rate (FLPR) in India, which has been falling for two decades now.
There are at least two surveys that explain the lag in the labour reforms for women. In 2018, a survey said that a third of women were disinterested in joining the gig economy due to the lack of job security and uncertainty on employment status.
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Pay parity still a concern
In addition to this, they are being paid less, widening the gender parity. A research by Observer Research Foundation (ORF) reiterates the data from TeamLease in India that said the gig economy added 40,000 women in 2019. But, they are making 10% less than men, especially the delivery executives.

The same year, the Ministry of Labour and Employment proposed the Code on Social Security Bill, to offer social security benefits to gig workers. On those lines, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on May 14, said that social security schemes will now be extended to even gig and platform workers, the proposal is awaiting approval of the Parliament and the Standing Committees.
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It is important because food-tech and e-commerce players such as Uber, Ola, Zomato and Swiggy, account for nearly 90% of the total gig workers in India. On an average, women make an average of ₹15,000 to ₹30,000 per month in the emerging 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,” said the ORF report.
Limited access to digital technologies
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That aside, the lag in the access to digital technologies is yet another hurdle to women’s participation in gig work. Despite the country’s push for digitisation, merely 16% women in India use mobile internet, as per the findings of the GSMA Mobile Gender Gap Report 2019. To overcome that, many companies offer their own devices to facilitate work.
“The gig economy is here to stay and offers many ways for women to start and improve their careers. However, 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,” said the report.

Future scope
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As per Deloitte data, nearly 80% of the organisations have less than 10% of their employees as gig workers, accounting majorly to contractual staff.

India’s gig economy is projected at a market size of $455 billion over the next three years — which might increase even further with the new-found interest. “A large majority of this is expected to be contributed by the unorganised sector of the economy, as India Inc's adoption of gig workers remains nascent at best,” the Deloitte report said.
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From minimum wages for all to social security for gig workers ⁠— these are the broad outlines of upcoming ‘labour reforms’ in India
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