The Fairwork India Report 2021 presents the third annual assessment of working conditions in the Indian gig economy. Eleven of the country’s most prominent platforms – Flipkart, Urban Company, BigBasket, Swiggy, Zomato, Amazon, Dunzo, PharmEasy, Ola, Porter, and Uber – were assessed against Fairwork’s Five Principles of Fair Work: Fair Pay, Fair Conditions, Fair Contracts, Fair Management, and Fair Representation. The 2021 Fairwork India scores range from 0 to 7, which highlights the great heterogeneity of labour practices in the Indian platform economy, with some platforms displaying greater concern for workers’ needs than others.
The economic and social impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic made 2021 a difficult year for the Indian economy generally, and gig economy workers specifically. Mobility restrictions meant a reduction in ride-sharing services while other forms of gig work, such as food delivery, have ballooned in the past year. Almost across the board, take-home pay has declined, even in sectors where demand has not been hampered by the pandemic.
While some of the lower Fairwork scores represent indefensibly poor working conditions, other platforms have made efforts to ameliorate at least some of their policies. Most significantly, BigBasket, Flipkart, and Urban Company committed to instituting a minimum wage floor (after work-related costs) for all their workers. Even though there is still a long way to go for fair conditions in the sector, such changes certainly represent steps in the right direction. That said, no platform scored all basic points across the five principles; nor did any achieve a point for Fair Representation. Despite an increase in instances of workers raising their collective voice, a corresponding willingness to recognize and negotiate with worker collectives among platforms is lacking.
With an increasing public awareness of platform workers’ precarious conditions, this report points clearly to the outstanding gaps in platform’s labour practices and the pressing need for improving working conditions in the Indian platform economy. The research for this report was carried out by the Fairwork India Team at the Centre for IT and Public Policy (CITAPP), International Institute of Information Technology Bangalore (IIITB), in partnership with the global Fairwork network.
The Fairwork India 2021 ratings evaluate the working conditions in 11 digital labour platforms, (Flipkart, Urban Company, BigBasket, Swiggy, Zomato, Amazon, Dunzo, PharmEasy, Ola, Porter, and Uber) against five global principles of fair work – Fair Pay, Fair Conditions, Fair Contracts, Fair Management, and Fair Representation. Each platform receives a fairness rating out of 10, with a basic and an advanced point per principle only awarded if there is clear evidence that the principle is fulfilled. Flipkart leads the table with 7 points, Urban Company follows with 5, BigBasket and Swiggy each score 4, Zomato achieved 3, Amazon, Dunzo and PharmEasy 1, and Ola, Porter and Uber earned 0 points.
- Fair Pay: Workers’ take-home earnings declined across all the platforms studied, due to the increase in work-related costs (such as fuel costs and commissions), decreased demand during the pandemic and platform’s cuts in rate cards and incentives. This year, BigBasket, Flipkart, and Urban Company committed to ensuring that all gig workers on their platforms will earn at least the hourly local minimum wage after factoring in their work-related costs. However, no platform evidenced paying a living wage to their workers.
- Fair Conditions: While several platforms introduced COVID-19 safety measures, along with improvements to their insurance policies for their gig workers, only Flipkart and Urban Company were awarded the basic and advanced points under the Fair Conditions principle. Besides offering COVID-19-specific income protection, both platforms have also committed to compensating loss of income that would extend to situations beyond COVID-19.
- Fair Contracts: BigBasket, Flipkart, Swiggy, and Zomato were awarded the basic point under Fair Contracts. Flipkart, Swiggy, and Zomato modified their contracts for gig workers to reduce the asymmetry in liabilities between gig workers and platforms, which earned them the advanced point in Fair Contracts.
- Fair Management: Platforms fared relatively well under the Fair Management principle, with BigBasket, Dunzo, Flipkart, PharmEasy, Swiggy, Urban Company and Zomato all awarded the basic point. BigBasket, Flipkart, Swiggy, and Urban Company also scored the advanced point as they have now adopted policies against the discrimination of their gig workers, and have committed to regular, independent audits to ensure there are no biases in their work allocation systems.
- Fair Representation: Representation through a collective body or trade unions is a vital dimension of fairness at work. It is disconcerting to note that despite the rise in collective actions by gig workers in the country, none of the platforms studied expressed a willingness to recognise a collective body of workers. Consequently, no platform earned either the basic or the advanced point for Fair Representation.
The Fairwork Pledge
As part of Fairwork’s commitment to making platforms accountable for their labour practices, we are launching the Fairwork Pledge. The pledge aims to encourage other organisations to support best labour practices, guided by the five principles of fair work.
Organisations like universities, schools, businesses, and charities that make use of platform labour can make a difference by supporting the best labour practices, guided by our five principles of fair work. 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 in their supply chains.
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.
In India, organisations like the International Institute of Information Technology Bangalore (IIITB), Parikrma Humanity Foundation and GramVaani have already signed the pledge. Join them in bringing about a fairer future of work.