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Niti Aayog’s Recommendations On How to Improve Benefits and Social Security for Gig Workers

The Niti Aayog’s recommendations may give the government’s policy-making on social security for gig workers some direction.

Offering health insurance, paid leaves, and pensions are some of the recommendations made by the Niti Aayog to improve social inclusion and security for gig and platform workers in India. Released on 27th June, in ‘India’s Booming Gig and Platform Economy’, the government think-tank reviewed existing measures providing social security and benefits to such workers undertaken by the government or even private sector entities and made recommendations on how to improve and expand them. 

MediaNama has previously reported on key statistics related to the gig economy and recommended measures to regulate it, as also provided by the Niti Aayog report. According to the report, officials from Niti Aayog’s Skill Development & Employment (SDE) Vertical Team were involved in formulating it, as were professors from institutes like BITS-Pilani and V.V. Giri Institute of Labour Studies, and researchers from the private sector organisation Ola Mobility Institute.

In this article, we summarise Niti Aayog’s recommendations on how to improve the support being provided to gig workers.

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Why it matters: As the report also puts it, such workers occupy unique intersections between the formal and informal sector—’displaying formal (payments and credit) as well as informal (time management, dynamic work relations) characteristics.’ Further, the protection and social security of gig and platform workers have been matters of much debate and controversy in India. In March 2022, Congress MP Karti P. Chidambaram raised the issue in his Zero Hour intervention, asking the government to issue guidelines for the protection of gig workers, ensure companies were complying with existing laws, and direct them to expand the social security measures offered to workers (such as minimum wage and maternity benefits). A petition filed by a gig workers association is reportedly pending before the Supreme Court. It seeks the legal reclassification of gig workers so as to give them better benefits and wages.

The Niti Aayog’s recommendations may give the government’s policy-making some direction on this front.

What Benefits Should Be Extended to Gig Workers?

  • Sick leave, health insurance: The report recommends that sick leaves and health insurance be provided to gig workers. “This will have positive implications for offering a social security cover to platform workers engaged by these firms,” it adds.
  • Insurance coverage for accidents and emergencies: The report suggests an insurance scheme from the government that can cover gig workers in cases of health emergencies and accidents. Such a scheme can be put in place through collaborations with the private sector or other government entities, the report says. It further cites examples of similar schemes used in Indonesia, one of the few countries to ensure social protection for gig workers, to illustrate how it could be implemented and what it could involve:

“Indonesia has introduced a digital mechanism to securitise digital platforms commonly used for motorcycle taxi rides in the country. When using the application, a small amount of the tariff is automatically deducted for accident insurance of both the driver and the passenger for the length of the trip (…) Indonesia’s social insurance administration organisation has introduced an insurance programme for gig and platform workers. Some of the benefits under the programme are care and medical facilities if a worker meets with an accident at work, full cover for three months in case a worker is unable to work as a result of an occupational disease or work accident”

  • Offering pensions, allowances for injuries: Policies offering pension plans, retirement benefits, and insurance covers for work accidents that lead to loss of employment should be adopted by platform businesses, the report suggests. These, it further suggests, could be implemented in partnership with the government under the Code on Social Security, 2020.
  • Support for undependable employment: Support should be provided by platform businesses in the case of uncertain or irregular work, the report says. Here it cites the example of New York City’s efforts during the coronavirus pandemic:

“In 2020, New York City offered help to the gig workers, who were licensed with the Taxi & Limousine Commission, by getting them delivery work (Dickey, 2020). The jobs came with minimum wage guarantee, paid as much as USD 15, apart from reimbursement for gas mileage and tolls..This provided social security to those suffering from income loss in the wake of business closures”

  • Support for small businesses and their workers: The report specifically asks for more support to be provided to small businesses, so that they may tie up with platform businesses. It cites the following examples of how this can be achieved:
  1. “As a part of initiatives introduced to mitigate the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, Urban Company extended interest-free business advances and delayed payback periods to protect the gig workers, self-employed and small businesses engaged with them.
  2. Kerala State Civil Supplies Corporation in Kochi partnered with food delivery service Zomato to enlist grains and other essentials on the app.”
  • Corpus fund, in case of contingencies, for gig workers: The report also recommends the creation of a corpus fund to support gig and platform workers in case of emergencies. A corpus fund includes funds contributed by all investors of an organisation.

Congress MP’s Issues with Gig and Platform Work

  • Unreasonable timelines for delivery: “Companies like Swiggy, Dunzo, Zomato, Uber, Ola, they’re all valued in billions of dollars. Their valuation is based on a principle called TAT—Turn Around Time. The shorter the Turn Around Time of them [while] providing the service, the greater the valuation is. So, we have delivery companies which promise delivery of either food or groceries or any products within ten minutes and 30 minutes. But this delivery is done by workers who are not employees of the company who are driving a two-wheeler, which is a personal vehicle. However, I’m [the worker] doing a commercial delay. I’m carrying a huge weight in there, in the carrier or in the pillion seat. But there is no protection for these workers,” Chidambaram had said in the Lok Sabha, asking the government to regulate such “unreasonable” and “unrealistic” delivery timelines of such businesses.
  • Insurance claims are rejected on accidents during delivery: “Insurance companies refuse to give compensation if there is an accident—and there have been accidents, there have been fatalities while making a delivery,” Chidambaram also said in his speech. He also sent a letter to the Union Minister of Road Transport and Highways, Nitin Gadkari, asking if the use of a personal vehicle for commercial purposes (such as to make a delivery) would be valid grounds for an insurance company to reject claims in the case of accidents.

This post is released under a CC-BY-SA 4.0 license. Please feel free to republish on your site, with attribution and a link. Adaptation and rewriting, though allowed, should be true to the original.

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Written By

I cover health technology for MediaNama but, really, love all things tech policy. Always willing to chat with a reader! Reach me at anushka@medianama.com

MediaNama’s mission is to help build a digital ecosystem which is open, fair, global and competitive.



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