Fairwork India Report 2023: Examining working conditions of workers on digital labour platforms

Posted on 01.11.2023
Fairwork India 23 Blog Cover

This report presents the Fairwork project’s fifth annual study of the working conditions in the digital labour platforms in India. For this round of scoring, the Fairwork India team has evaluated 12 platforms across four cities: Bengaluru, Delhi, Kochi, and Thiruvananthapuram. 

India witnessed an exciting regulatory moment this year in July: The Rajasthan Platform Based Gig Workers (Registration and Welfare) Act. As Fairwork repeatedly highlights, working conditions in the Gig economy almost invariably fall short of decent standards, leaving workers exposed to precariousness. This Act, however, promises to introduce a degree of security in a setting where workers are entitled to little. It requires the registration of all “platform-based gig workers” in Rajasthan, introduces a fee for aggregators on every digital transaction made by consumers on the platforms, creates a Welfare Fund for gig workers that will be financed by this fee, and creates a Welfare Board to oversee welfare policies and grievance redressal for workers.

Excitingly, a survey of 963 consumers was conducted across the 12 platforms ranked by Fairwork India this year as well. The survey gauged the awareness and perception of the working conditions of platform workers amongst consumers in 12 major cities and found significant support for the issues raised by the Fairwork principles in the largest cities. These are the most valuable markets for the platforms and, coupled with the Rajasthan Platform Based Gig Workers Act, demonstrates strong support for improving working conditions in the platform economy.

The 12 platforms assessed – bigbasket, BluSmart, Swiggy, Urban Company, Zomato, Zepto, Flipkart, Amazon Flex, Dunzo, Uber, Ola, and Porter, achieved scores ranging from six to zero. Broadly speaking, many platforms have achieved worse scores than last year – a worrying trend despite the positive indications discussed above.


Fair Pay: bigbasket, Flipkart, and Urban Company were the only platforms with a minimum wage policy to ensure that all their workers earn at least the hourly local minimum wage after factoring in work-related costs. No platform made the second point of the Fair Pay principle, however Urban Company has made a public commitment to ensure that its workers earn at least the local living wage after factoring in work-related costs. 

Fair Conditions: Amazon Flex, bigbasket, BluSmart, Flipkart, Swiggy, Urban Company, Uber, Zepto and Zomato were awarded the first point under the Fair Conditions principle for providing adequate safety equipment and periodic safety training to their workers. Only bigbasket, Swiggy, Urban Company, Zepto and Zomato were awarded the second point for providing workers with accident insurance coverage at no additional cost, monetary compensation for income loss in cases where they were unable to work due to medical reasons other than accidents, and for ensuring workers’ standing was not negatively affected when they returned after a break taken with prior notification given to the platform. 

Fair Contracts: Seven out of 12 platforms were awarded the first point for the Fair Contracts principle. bigbasket, BluSmart,Dunzo, Swiggy, Urban Company, Zepto and Zomato were awarded this point for ensuring the accessibility and comprehensibility of their contracts, and for having a protocol for data protection and management of worker data. bigbasket, BluSmart, Urban Company, Zepto, and Zomato met the requirements for the second point under Fair Contracts by adopting a change notification clause in their contracts, reducing asymmetries in liability (such as by a provision to compensate workers for losses due to app malfunctions), adopting a Code of Conduct for their subcontractors, and making the variables of pricing transparent where dynamic pricing was used. 

Fair Management: Amazon Flex, bigbasket, BluSmart, Flipkart, Swiggy,and Zomato were awarded the first point for the Fair Management principle for providing due process in decisions affecting workers, and channels for workers to appeal disciplinary actions. There was sufficient evidence only from BluSmart and Swiggy to meet the second point for the principle. They institutionalised the conduct of regular, external audits to check for biases in their work allocation systems, in addition to adopting policies against the discrimination of platform workers. 

Fair Representation: Representation through a collective body or trade union is a vital dimension of fairness at work. It is disconcerting that despite the rise in platform worker collectivisation across the country, over the past four years, there was insufficient evidence from any platform that showed a willingness to recognise a collective body of workers. Consequently, no platform could be awarded a point for this principle this year. 


What can I do? The Fairwork Pledge 

As part of Fairwork’s commitment to holding platforms accountable for their labour practices, particularly in promoting worker health, safety, and security, Fairwork invites Indian organisations to announce their public support for decent working conditions in the platform economy by signing the Fairwork Pledge. 

Organisations like universities, schools, businesses, investors and charities that make use of platform labour can make a difference by supporting platforms that offer better working conditions. Organisations have the option to sign up to the Pledge as an official Fairwork Supporter or an official Fairwork Partner. Those signing up to be a Supporter must demonstrate their support for fairer platform work publicly and provide their staff with appropriate resources to make informed decisions about what platforms to use. Becoming a Fairwork Partner entails making a public commitment to implement changes in their own internal practices, such as committing to using better-rated platforms when there is a choice. 

More than 60 organizations, including GIZ, Solidarity Center, Learning Lions, WZB Berlin Social Science Center, and FES, have already signed the pledge. Join them in demanding a fairer future of work!