The Rise Of The Gig Sector: Promising Trends Riddled With Uncertainty

While flexible working and autonomy make gig work an alluring option for many, gig workers have reported dissatisfaction with long working hours corresponding to a lack of incentive structure and zero social security benefits.


Rashi, a bright young law graduate, found herself at a crossroads when her newly established law firm had to be abruptly shut during the pandemic-induced lockdown. 

A bustling law practice at the busy district courts in the Delhi periphery had come to a temporary but uncertain halt. For a young first-generation lawyer brimming with enthusiasm and vision to establish an independent law practice straight out of law school, the situation was unrelentingly discouraging. As it is finding clients in the initial years of practice involves a lot of hustle, the drying nature of work made matters worse for the new-age lawyer. 

During a period when uncertainty loomed large over her career, Rashi found some degree of solace in blog writing assignments for clients, a gig she landed through a client she helped in a matrimonial dispute.

Little did she know that her flair for writing would act as a catalyst for enhancing her digital footprint and personal brand. Three years later, a strong digital presence helped her generate regular legal and writing work meaning that a day in her shoes meant sipping a cup of tea while skimming through an increasing number of case files.  Rashi juggles between court work and copywriting assignments to this day. 

It not only empowers her with a fulfilling sense of freedom to choose the kind of work she does but also gives her the autonomy to be her own boss; the kind of work-life she always aspired for.

Just like Rashi, an umpteen number of people found themselves staring at the possibility of gig work three years back. Whether it be unemployed engineers turning up as food delivery agents or people from the aviation industry switching to passion projects, there are innumerable instances of pandemic-induced gig-working that in no time became a movement and transformed the existing models of working. If numbers give a glimpse of the promise, the gig economy holds, a report by Niti Aayog predicts that India’s booming gig workforce will add up to 2.35 crores, which is a steep jump of 200 percent from the existing matric. 

Factors Influencing Gig Workers

While reasons for the accentuated rise in the workforce are plausible, it won't come as a surprise if the projected forecasts could be achieved a couple of years sooner.  With major companies across different industries promoting flexi work options for employees and the realignment of Gen Z priorities, the percentage of gig composition in an organizational setup is changing. As per a survey conducted by CIEL, 55 percent of the organisations in the sample size have started using gig workers. In terms of numbers, it translates into more than 200 organisations tilting towards adopting a hybrid workforce out of the 400 plus organisations considered for the purpose of the survey. 

A report by ASSOCHAM gives more teeth to the favoured adoption of gig models in the workforce, according to which, the tally of gig workers in the economy is likely to stand at a staggering 7.5 crores.

Gig working: a silver lining for Women Wanting to resume careers

In the corporate maze, the aspect of promoting gender equality is often talked about. From pay parity to seeing more women in board rooms, the dinner table discussions are evergreen. On one hand, India Inc is witnessing a steady rise of trailblazing women getting their deserving seat on the table, but the other side of the story equally demands attention. Earlier this year, leading company TCS reported higher attrition among its women workforce. 

In a note to shareholders in the annual report, Milind Lakkad, HR head of TCS conceded that historically women’s attrition at TCS has been similar or lower than men’s attrition; however, that has changed now.

To put things into perspective, women comprised 38.1% of net hires in FY23 in terms of external hiring initiatives. It compares with 35.7% female participation in TCS’ overall workforce. Calling the development unusual, Lakkad was of the view that working from home during the pandemic has reset domestic arrangements for some women. 

CIEL’s survey on identifying trends for the gig economy adds substance to a woman finding flexible work arrangements more suitable to their work-life priorities.

In the said survey 40% of the female respondents shared a strong interest in working on different projects and 31 percent of them chose self-employment owing to the independence and flexibility the said working arrangement brings. For married women who juggle multiple hats between household duties and childcare, the flexibility that a work-from-home opportunity offers is undeniably attractive.

What’s the catch

The most significant challenge gig workers face is the uncertain nature of their employment, with 32% of respondents highlighting this issue in the survey by CEIL.

While flexible working and weekly credit of income make gig work an alluring option for many, gig workers have reported dissatisfaction with long working hours corresponding to a lack of incentive structure and zero social security benefits.

Putting things into perspective, Vinay Joy, Partner, Khaitan & Co, "our current legal framework does not recognize gig workers as a distinctive category and they would, as a result of the absence of specific regulations, be categorized as independent contractors or consultants, i.e., on a principal-to-principal basis rather than as employees or even contract workers". 

"This lack of clear categorization has resulted in the denial of social security benefits (such as provident fund contributions and duration-based benefits such as gratuity for instance), amongst other benefits to such workers. This is particularly problematic given that, in most cases, gig workers perform tasks that are indistinguishable from those of regular employees", he adds. 

The central government has time and again called out for the framing of policies on the rights and social security benefits of gig workers, the notification of the Code has been waiting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. 

Summing up the urgency of making the welfare provisions a reality, P.V. Murthy, Head of Labour Practice, ELP, says, "it is high time the government brings in social security measures for the gig workers. The best way for the government to do this is to notify the implementation date for the Code on Social Security. It serves not just the cause of gig workers but also brings in parity in terms of their salary and benefits."

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