Only 3 Digital Labour Platforms Give Gig Workers Local Hourly Min Wage After Costs: Report

Flexibility is touted as the selling point in the case of gig economy, but it actually works in the favour of platforms rather than in the favour of gig workers, one of the researchers of the Fairwork India Ratings 2022 report tells 'The Wire'.

New Delhi: Only three out of the several digital labour platforms operational in India pay their gig workers the hourly local minimum wage or above, after factoring in work-related costs, a report has found.

According to the Fairwork India Ratings 2022 report, aside from Bigbasket, Flipkart, and Urban Company, no other platform publicly commits to paying or provides sufficient evidence of paying their workers the hourly local minimum wage after work-related costs are subtracted.

Titled Fairwork India Ratings 2022: Labour Standards in the Platform Economy, the report examines the work conditions of workers on digital labour platforms in India. It evaluates 12 platforms offering location-based services in sectors such as domestic and personal care, logistics, food delivery, e-pharmacy, and transportation, in India.

The report was brought out by the Fairwork India Team, headed by the Centre for IT and Public Policy (CITAPP), International Institute of Information Technology Bangalore (IIIT-B), in association with Oxford University.

Through a combination of desk research and worker interviews conducted in Bangalore, Delhi, and Kochi, and from evidence provided by the platforms, the Fairwork India Ratings 2022 evaluated 12 platforms, including Amazon Flex, bigbasket, Dunzo, Flipkart, Ola, PharmEasy, Porter, Swiggy, Uber, Urban Company, Zepto and Zomato.

Fairwork India Team assessed platforms against five principles: fair pay, fair conditions, fair contracts, fair management, and fair representation. Each principle is broken down into two points: a first point and a second point that can only be awarded if the first point has been fulfilled. Every platform received a score out of 10. Platforms are only awarded a point when they can sufficiently demonstrate or commit to the implementation of the principle.

“This year, no platform scored more than seven out of the maximum of ten points, and none scored all the first points across the five principles,” the report said.

Given that each principle is broken down into two points, the first point is awarded to a platform when it meets bare minimum requirements on a said principle. For instance, a first point in the case of ‘fair pay’ principle captures the hourly local minimum wage (a lower threshold) while the second point relates to local living wage (a higher threshold). Such lower and higher thresholds are applied across five principles. Only when a platform is awarded the first point will it be considered for the second point.

On the fair pay principle, only bigbasket, Flipkart, and Urban Company have been found to be providing local hourly minimum wage to its workers, thereby winning the first point. No other surveyed platform has earned the first point.

On the other hand, none of the platforms earned the second point, which could have been awarded provided the platforms offered its workers a local living wage. While the minimum wage is something below which a one cannot be paid, a living wage allows workers to have reasonable standard of living.

When it comes to fair work conditions, bigbasket, Flipkart, Swiggy, Urban Company, and Zomato have been awarded the first point for simplifying their insurance claims processes and for having operational emergency helplines on the platform interface. Only bigbasket, Swiggy, and Urban Company have been awarded the second point for implementing a loss of pay policy that provides workers with a financial safety net during medical illnesses.

Seven out of 12 platforms have been awarded the first point for fair contracts principle. bigbasket, Flipkart, Swiggy, Porter, Urban Company, Zepto, and Zomato have been awarded this point for ensuring accessibility of their contracts and implementing a notice period before changes are made. Additionally, Flipkart, Swiggy, Urban Company, Zepto and Zomato, have modified their contracts to reduce the asymmetry in liabilities and have added a clause for dispute resolution between workers and platforms, and hence met the second point under fair contracts.

On fair management principle, bigbasket, Flipkart, Swiggy, Urban Company, and Zomato have been awarded the first point for having a grievance redressal process with the option to connect with a human representative of the platform. There is sufficient evidence only from Urban Company to meet the second point for the principle. It instituted regular, external audits to check for biases in its work allocation systems, in addition to adopting policies against the discrimination of its platform workers.

On the principle of fair representation, no platform has earned either first or second points. Representation through a collective body or trade union is a vital dimension of fairness at work. However, it has been found that despite the rise in platform worker collectivisation across the country, there is insufficient evidence from any platform to show willingness to recognise a collective body of workers.


The report is structured around the theme of flexibility, which is often portrayed as a crucial dimension and benefit of platform work. “The promise of flexibility of the digital platform economy raises as many questions about livelihoods as it offers opportunities…,” said professors Balaji Parthasarathy and Janaki Srinivasan, the principal investigators and authors of the report.

Speaking to The Wire, Parthasarathy sought to underline that there are two challenges that often get overlooked in the case of gig workers. “Flexibility is touted as the selling point in the case of gig economy. ‘Be your own boss’ or ‘work as much as you want to’ are the claims of these platforms. However, the pertinent question to ask is flexibility for whom? The flexibility aspect actually works in the favour of platforms rather than in the favour of these workers. These deep-pocketed and high-end technological platforms benefit out of flexibility more than workers,” he added.

This gets further complicated since these platform workers fall in a “legal grey zone”, since they are not treated as employees and do not come under even in the unroganised sector, observes Parthasarathy.

“The problem stemming out of such a scenario is that laws mandating minimum wage do not cover them. As they are called ‘independent partners’, every gig worker is on their own. Collective action or representation that can earn some bargaining power for these workers is not possible,” he explains.

However, Parthasarthy says, “We do acknowledge that these planforms are important given the unemployment levels that we are witnessing in the country. But these platforms should not exploit their voiceless workers. So, we want these platforms to do well, because only if they do well, will they be able to pass on the benefits to their workers.”