The COVID-19 pandemic, also known as the Coronavirus, has caused chaos throughout the world. With more than half of the globe currently on lockdown, the economy of almost every country has taken a severe hit. However, with the help of various government policies and employee benefits, most full-time employees are still receiving their salaries. Hence, arguably the one sector of employees who have taken the major brunt of this lockdown are gig workers.
Primarily being employed by online food delivery firms like Zomato and Swiggy, ride-hailing apps like Ola and Ober, and hospitality brands like Airbnb and Oyo, and blue-collar labor work, including construction sites, smaller restaurants, events, etc., the gig economy in India is huge. An industry group, Assocham, predicted that this market would grow to the size of $455 billion by 2023. However, as a consequence of the turmoil caused by the COVID-19, the growth has surely derailed.
Now, with the 21-days lockdown being extended, this sector is bracing itself for unforeseen challenges as lives are unlikely to return to normal, even after the extension of the lockdown is complete.
Before we delve deeper into the challenges gig workers are facing due to the Coronavirus lockdown, let us analyze who comprises this group.
Who Are Gig Workers?
Essentially, gig workers are referred to as non-traditional workers who conduct income-earning activities without maintaining a long-term or employee-employer relation. While this definition is surely extremely broad, we can narrow it down using the type of work it includes and different approaches used to define this workforce. Mentioned below are two of the most common approaches used to define gig workers:
The most common approach of identifying a gig worker is by analyzing their work arrangement with the company that pays them. Ideally, a traditional worker has a long-term relationship with a particular company, wherein they are paid by the hour, week, or month, which is known as their salary. On the other hand, gig workers work on temporary or project-basis, otherwise known as workers hired to complete a particular project or task for a certain duration.
Nature of Work
Another way to define gig workers is by analyzing the nature of the work they conduct on a daily basis. This could include various characteristics, including the schedule of work, flexibility while completing certain tasks, or simply the lack of direct oversight and reporting.
Now that we have a better understanding of who comes under the umbrella term of gig workers let’s understand their position during the lockdown due to the pandemic.
Heroes v/s Jobless: The Two Sides of Gig Workers During The Lockdown
With people being advised to maintain distance and be wary of any type of physical contact, the market which involves ordering cabs, eating food in restaurants, and even grooming services at home, basically, any activity conducted in shared spaces, are on a decline.
However, there are certain sectors that are witnessing high demand. Mentioned below is an in-depth analysis of both the scenarios.
The Public Heroes
Due to the spread of the virus, many people are scared to leave the house even to buy the bare essentials. In such cases, gig workers who are willing to deliver products to them to their doorstep become extremely relevant. Serving in the direction of public goodwill, they’re often considered to be public heroes, as even though there are many risks, these gig workers keep delivering.
The main reasons, according to experts, for the surplus demand is because of the manufacturing, transportation, and shipping industry staying for the foreseeable future. As a result of the increase in demand for home deliveries, platforms like Amazon have reported a dramatic increase in the number of delivery workers to meet all the requirements. In fact, a couple of days earlier, Amazon announced that they intend to hire 100,000 workers for their warehousing and delivery units in response to online shopping demands.
The Jobless Workers
While one side of the gig workers sector is risking their lives to secure a job, the other side doesn’t have jobs at all. For example, with all construction sites being put on hold, all the construction gig workers are out of a job. Similarly, with production houses shut down, all gig workers like spot boys, make-up artists, etc., are struggling to make ends meet without any money.
What Happens After The Lockdown Is Over?
Regardless of if they are in-demand or currently jobless, this lockdown has surely proven that gig workers are at an all-time risk, both financially and health-wise. Hence, according to experts, after the lockdown is over and the pandemic has come under control, these workers are sure to include certain factors in their contracts that protect them when it comes to such crisis situations. Some of which include:
- Gig workers may consider opting for a retainer contract, as compared to project-based as it will ensure they still get paid in times of crisis
- Gig workers may consider adding certain benefits for them in the contracts, including insurance, leaves for longer contracts, etc.
- Gig workers may appeal to the government to add certain regulations for these workers in times of crisis.
In conclusion, if you’re a gig worker, we would recommend being open to learning new skills that can help you during these tough times. After all, sometimes all you can do is just hang on, this too shall pass.0