Since our childhood days, we have been accustomed to see our parents leave for work, every day, working the traditional 9-to-5 jobs, and what’s more impressive (and albeit confusing sometimes) working in the same company for 30+ years before retiring. However, with the 21st century, we started to notice that these notions are quickly disappearing.
As Bob Dylan sang it, “For the times they are a-changin’”
Some of you might be wondering “What kind of an HR-related article has a reference to music in it ?” Well, to start off, let me explain “Gig”. A “Gig” has traditionally meant “a live musical performance” for which the musicians are paid for. However, this word now encompasses all kinds of short term, and often project-based assignments.
Let us take a look at what is the definition of a Gig Economy: According to Merriam-Webster, “economic activity that involves the use of temporary or freelance workers to perform jobs typically in the service sector ”
So what’s all the hullabaloo with the New Gig Economy?
Well, actually, the gig economy has been around for far longer. Imagine, a plumber or an electrician being hired for repair and/or installation work – that my friends is Gig Economy, by definition, in the most simplistic form.
The relationship between the employee and the employer, in the traditional sense, has slowly started to change as soon as new technology made their way into our lives. What is the technology we are talking about? Yes, it’s the Internet.
Firstly, it decoupled the JOB and OFFICE, enabling remote working facilities. It might to a retired professor, who is conducting on-line classes from the confines of his home, or a salesperson who has taken the onus to promote their products or a graphic designer who has taken a project to design a brand logo or a web designer who has taken a project to design a company’s landing page.
Secondly, this also enabled the employers to choose its employees from a wide variety of talent pool, rather than from a specific geographic area. These days with the emergence of even more digital service offering platforms, employers also have the option to check out the sample work before proceeding with the “employment contract”
Thirdly, the gig economy has actually brought down the prices for services, while the quality keeps on increasing. Companies such as Uber, Airbnb, Lyft, Etsy or TaskRabbit act as the medium through which the worker is connected to – and ultimately paid by – the consumer.
The “Desi” Connection: India constitutes about 40% of the freelance jobs offered globally, with 15 million skilled professionals fuelling the ever-so-increasing demand for contract-based jobs or the freelance industry.
Freelancers are attracted to the gig economy because they can follow their niche as well as leverage the flexibility and independence that comes with it. A worker or independent contractor has the choice of selecting his or her work hours and at times, even how he or she wishes to complete the work. Such workers or independent contractors can work from home, especially when the project is related to arts and design, information technology or creative writing.
So it seems all is very well set for the Gig Economy.. isn’t it? Well, let us take a moment to discuss the “grey” areas, if not totally dark.
- Job Stability: A Gig worker would never have the job stability, having tried his “associations” with multiple enterprises, but never a “relation”. In the later stages of his career, if such a freelancer wants to move into a permanent role, it can be quite challenging.
- Earning Opportunity: If the amount of work fluctuates, the Freelancer is left to his own means, especially, during these trying times of an economic slowdown, pan-world.
- A Gig economy however useful it might sound for both the employee and the employer, it will never result in the formation of a “core team”.
- In several cases, it has been observed, that the minimum wage rates are contradicted since the freelancers aren’t really a part of the enterprise, as well as, health benefits that the other permanent employees might receive. In such events, the affected parties have approached the higher courts for a clearer judgement. For further reading, its recommended to read cases like “Dhrangadhara Chemical Works v. the State of Saurashtra” & “Group 4 Securitas Guarding Ltd. v. Employees Provident Fund Appellate Tribunal and Ors”.
While “gig” work or “contract employment” has become a necessity for both the workers and the companies hiring them, regulation of the gig work remains vital to ensure that these classes of workers are given the same opportunities and protections as other employees covered under various labour laws in India. Proposing legislative tools and policy frameworks as well as a review of the draft Code is essential in ensuring the protection of rights of gig workers.