Rajasthan Paves the Way for Better Rights and Working Conditions for Gig Workers

Rajasthan, a state in western India, has passed a landmark law that aims to improve the rights and working conditions of gig workers. This small but significant victory comes after years of demanding labour rights and access to basic benefits for gig workers. The new law, called the Rajasthan Platform Based Gig Workers (Registration and Welfare) Act 2023, seeks to provide social security benefits to gig workers, among other provisions.

One of the key features of the law is the establishment of a social security fund financed by a welfare tax imposed on customer transactions made through apps such as food delivery and ride-sharing. This fund will pool together contributions from the state government and gig workers, ensuring a safety net for workers in times of need. Additionally, the law aims to create an online database of gig workers and their associated platforms, providing a more transparent system to monitor and address grievances.

Labour rights activists have praised the law for granting gig workers some of the rights enjoyed by formal employees. They see it as a significant step towards bringing gig workers under a social security net and providing them with more stability in their work. The law also serves as a potential model for other states to follow in protecting the rights of gig workers.

However, critics of the law argue that it may have adverse effects on the gig economy. They suggest that customers may end up paying more for transactions as aggregator platforms may increase prices to compensate for the welfare tax. Despite this concern, gig workers worldwide, including those in the US and UK, have been unionizing to demand labour rights. Indian gig workers face additional obstacles as they are not classified as “employees” under the country’s labour laws. Gig platforms often refer to them as “partners” or “independent contractors”, avoiding the responsibilities and benefits associated with employment.

India has a large population of platform-based gig workers, estimated to be over seven million. However, experts believe that this number could be even higher. With a booming population and a shortage of traditional job opportunities, many Indians, particularly youth, have turned to gig work as a means of livelihood.

The new law addresses several crucial aspects for the gig workforce. Firstly, it focuses on registering gig workers, providing them with a unique ID that remains valid across platforms and jobs. This ID allows them to track their earnings and contributions to the social security fund through an integrated tracking and financial management system. It also ensures that workers continue to have access to benefits even if they switch industries or take breaks from gig work.

While the law represents a significant step forward, some experts argue that it falls short in certain areas. They believe that it should include provisions for a cap on maximum working hours or minimum earnings to protect the welfare of gig workers. Additionally, more clarity is needed regarding the deduction of the welfare tax to prevent it from negatively impacting worker incentives or being recovered through fines. Only through implementation will the success of the law become evident.

Despite its potential shortcomings, labour rights activists assert that the law can be effectively implemented with sufficient political will. They view it as a roadmap for creating similar laws across states and for various jobs in the unorganized sector. Lawmakers and governments have become increasingly responsive to the demands of gig workers, recognizing their influence as a significant vote bank.

The Indian government has already taken steps to protect gig workers by enacting the Code on Social Security, which requires gig platforms to contribute to a fund for their workers. However, the specific rules for this contribution are yet to be established. Additionally, the Karnataka government recently announced free accidental and life insurance coverage for gig workers, with the state covering the premium.

As gig workers continue to assert their rights and put pressure on governments, it is clear that they cannot be ignored any longer. This victory in Rajasthan signifies a step towards a more equitable and secure future for gig workers in India.