Gig Workers Bill: reading between the lines – Analysis of the Rajasthan Platform-Based Gig Workers (Registration and Welfare) Bill, 2023 | 30 August 2023 | UPSC Daily Editorial Analysis

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What's the article about?

  • It analyses the Rajasthan Platform-Based Gig Workers (Registration and Welfare) Bill, 2023.


  • GS2: Government Policies and Interventions for Development in various sectors and Issues arising out of their Design and Implementation;
  • GS3: Indian Economy;
  • Prelims


  • The Rajasthan government has introduced the Rajasthan Platform-Based Gig Workers (Registration and Welfare) Bill, 2023, which aims to ensure social security for gig workers.
  • However, the Bill appears to have some major issues that could limit its effectiveness.

What is Gig Economy:

  • A gig economy is a free market system in which temporary positions are common and organizations hire independent workers for short-term commitments. The term “gig” is a slang word for a job that lasts a specified period of time.

Gig Economy in India:

  • The gig economy, also known as the on-demand economy, is a rapidly growing trend in India. It refers to a labour market where temporary, short-term, or freelance jobs are the norm instead of the traditional nine-to-five office jobs.
  • Some key points about gig workers in the Indian context:
    • Flexibility and Independence: Gig work offers more flexibility and independence for workers. They have the freedom to choose when and where they work, allowing them to balance work with personal commitments.
    • Cost-Effective Solution: For businesses, hiring gig workers can be a cost-effective solution. They can hire workers on a part-time or project basis, reducing overhead costs associated with full-time employees.
    • Rise of the Gig Economy: The gig economy is on the rise in India, with more people opting for independent work rather than traditional nine-to-five jobs. This shift in work culture is driven by factors such as increasing internet penetration, economic liberalization, and the growth of e-commerce.
    • Supplementing Income: Some gig workers in India are able to supplement their monthly income by working in the gig economy. They may work in the industry alongside their regular jobs or use gig work as their primary source of income.
    • Challenges and Concerns: Gig workers in India face various challenges and concerns. They often lack social security benefits, such as health insurance and paid leave. Additionally, there have been protests and demands for better working conditions and fair pay.
    • Expected Growth: The gig workforce in India is expected to grow significantly in the coming years. According to a report by NITI Aayog, India's gig workforce was 77 lakh in 2020-21 and is projected to reach 2.35 crore by 2029-30.

Challenges faced by gig workers in India:

  • Income instability: Gig workers may experience fluctuations in income due to the irregular and unpredictable nature of gig work.
  • Lack of social protection: Gig workers usually lack basic employment rights such as protection against discrimination, harassment, or unfair termination.
  • Bad service conditions: Gig workers may face poor working conditions, such as long working hours, lack of job security, and inadequate pay.
  • Entitlement burden: Gig workers may have to bear the burden of entitlements such as insurance, pension, and other benefits that are not provided by the platforms they work for.
  • Declining income: Gig workers may face declining income due to increasing variable expenses and lack of welfare schemes and social security.
  • Gender-specific issues: Women gig workers may face additional challenges, such as having to pay onboarding fees again when they come back after maternity leave or regularly suffering due to the lack of public toilets in the country.

What is the Government doing to regulate the gig economy in India?

  • The gig economy in India is currently unregulated, and gig workers have limited recognition under the current Indian labour laws. However, the Indian government is taking steps to regulate the gig economy and address the concerns of gig workers.
  • Here are some of the government's initiatives:
    • Code on Social Security, 2020: The Code on Social Security, 2020 defines gig workers as those engaged in livelihoods outside traditional employer-employee relationships. It aims to extend social security benefits to gig workers, including health insurance, life and disability coverage, and maternity benefits.
    • Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code, 2020: The Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code, 2020 aims to provide a safe and healthy working environment for gig workers. It mandates that gig platforms provide gig workers with personal protective equipment, training, and insurance coverage.
    • New Tax on Digital Platforms: In July 2023, the Indian state of Karnataka introduced a new tax on digital platforms to fund welfare schemes for gig workers. The tax will be imposed on each transaction on digital platforms, and the funds will be used to provide social security benefits to gig workers.
    • National Policy for Domestic Workers: The Indian government is also working on a National Policy for Domestic Workers, which will provide social security benefits to domestic workers, including gig workers. The policy is expected to cover a range of issues, including minimum wages, working hours, and working conditions.
  • While these initiatives are steps in the right direction, there is still a long way to go in terms of regulating the gig economy in India and providing social protection to gig workers.

Analysis: Issues with the Bill:

  • Definitions:
    • The definitions of a gig worker and aggregator in the Bill are unclear and do not treat the aggregator as an employer.
    • This could result in gig workers being seen as contractors or self-employed and not as employees by the aggregator.
  • Provisions:
    • By not defining gig workers as employees, the Bill is limited in its ability to integrate existing labour laws into its ambit.
    • This means that aggregators will continue to be insulated from complying with the mandates of labour laws and remain evasive from the responsibility of providing gig workers with workplace entitlements.
  • Database:
    • The Bill aims to create a database of gig workers, but the registration is valid for perpetuity, which might become an unintended impediment.
    • A worker often works for two or more aggregators on a given day.
    • A mandatory system of registration could enable the aggregators to get to know about the worker’s details of employment with multiple aggregators and come out with mechanisms that impair the opportunity choices before the gig worker.
  • Social Security:
    • The Bill aims to guarantee social security to platform-based gig workers by constituting a representative welfare board and creating a welfare fund.
    • However, it neither defines categorically what constitutes social security nor specifies welfare measures that can broadly be construed as social security.
    • Instead, it leaves this crucial aspect to the discretion of the welfare board, which might limit the effectiveness of the Bill.

Way Forward:

  • This bill acknowledges the significant contributions of gig workers to the economy and aims to provide them with essential protection and support.
  • However, due to the issues mentioned above, whether the Bill can deliver what it promises appears doubtful.
  • The Bill needs to be revised to ensure that gig workers receive the social security and workplace entitlements they deserve.

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