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Gig workers suffer from lack of social security, regulations: study

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Due to the demanding work hours, the study found that drivers are physically exhausted, and exposed to an increased risk of road traffic accidents. File.

Due to the demanding work hours, the study found that drivers are physically exhausted, and exposed to an increased risk of road traffic accidents. File.
| Photo Credit: NAGARA GOPAL

Almost a third of app-based cab drivers work for over 14 hours a day, while more than 83% work more than 10 hours and 60% work over 12 hours, according to a study of more than 10,000 Indian cab drivers, gig and platform workers. It noted that social disparities make the situation worse, with over 60% of the drivers from Scheduled Castes and Tribes working for over 14 hours a day, while only 16% from the unreserved category work such long hours.

Authors of the study, which will be released on Monday, recommended stronger social security for app-based workers, and called on the government to exercise oversight on the fairness of algorithms and mechanisms used by platforms to monitor such workers.

Also read | Are gig workers nobody’s employees?

The study was conducted by the People’s Association in Grassroots Action and Movements, and the Indian Federation of App-based Transport Workers, with technical support from the University of Pennsylvania and Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung India, a German foundation.

Low pay, long hours

The study report says that over 43% of participants in the study earn less than ₹500 a day or ₹15,000 a month, after deducting all their costs. The study found that 34% of app-based delivery persons earn less than ₹10,000 a month, while 78% of them are spending over 10 hours each day at work. Noting the differences among workers from different castes, the report said that “these income disparities further exacerbate the already existing social inequalities and perpetuate cycles of poverty and distress within these communities”.

Overall, 5302 cab drivers and 5028 delivery persons across eight cities — Delhi, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Mumbai, Lucknow, Kolkata, Jaipur, and Indore — participated in a 50-question survey; 78% of the respondents were in the age group of 21 to 40 years.

Due to the demanding work hours, the study found that drivers are physically exhausted, and exposed to an increased risk of road traffic accidents, especially due to the ‘10-minute delivery at the doorstep’ policy of certain e-commerce platforms. The report said that 86% of delivery persons found such policies “completely unacceptable”. The lack of social and job security creates additional stress and leads to potential health issues.

Expenses exceed earnings

“While 72% of the cab drivers said that they face difficulty in managing expenses, 76% of the delivery persons are struggling to make their ends meet. 68% of cab drivers’ responses even show that their overall expenses exceed their earnings, which indicate how a vast number of app-based workers could be in debt-like situations,” the report said, urging better compensation and support for these workers.

Over 80% of app-based cab drivers were not satisfied with the fares offered by the companies, while over 73% of app-based delivery persons showed dissatisfaction with their rates. “35% of the respondents reported that according to them, the companies are deducting between 31-40% of commission rate per ride, while the officially claimed figure by the companies themselves is 20%. The screenshot data evidence also points out to the deductions on each ride to be over 31%. 68% of the respondents said that these deductions are arbitrary, unexplained and unfair,” the report said.

Customer misbehaviour

It added that 41% of the drivers said they are unable to take even a single day off in a week; 48% of delivery persons too reported their inability to take a weekly off. Less than 37% of the drivers said they belonged to a union.

Another major complaint of the workers is the issue of ID deactivation and customer misbehaviour. “A glaring 83% of the drivers reported that the issue of ID blocking affects them negatively, 47% stated that this issue extremely affects them. In the case of delivery persons, this percentage is even higher at 87%. Customer behaviour affects a significant majority (72%) of drivers in a negative way, while 68% of delivery persons are reportedly affected by it negatively,” the report said.

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