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Are There Women In the Gig Economy? As per a recent market survey, approximately 15 million gig workers in India are on active contracts, of which less than 10 per cent are thought to be women

By Sidharth Kulbhaskar

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The term 'gig economy' refers to a type of labour market wherein people work on short-term contracts or freelance work; any agreement does not bind this as opposed to permanent jobs. As of FY2021, India has around 15 million gig workers across different sectors and subsectors of the economy. Delivery workers, cleaners to consultants, and bloggers are all part of this; most of these jobs are platform enabled, and workers utilize these platforms for flexible work and take up multiple contracts. With the potential to serve over 90 million jobs in the non-farming sector, it is projected to add 1.25 per cent to the economy's GDP.

As per a recent market survey, approximately 15 million gig workers in India are on active contracts, of which less than 10 per cent are thought to be women. One of the primary reasons for such a small number of women in this marketplace is the absence of laws to safeguard them in any way, shape, or form. Until recently, there did not exist any defined set of legal rules or regulations for workers in the gig economy; however, in 2020, the government of India consolidated twenty-nine existing labour laws into four plinths of labour codes. However, they are yet to be implemented.

The most highlighted factors that have hindered the inclusion of more women within India's gig economy are:

Orthodox social barriers: Unfortunately, even today, across a significant belt of Indian society, women are not allowed to go out and work. Their participation in any work outside their 'domestic work' at home is looked down upon. This deprives India's gig economy of some highly skilled and often educated women.

Gender defined work: The preconceived notion that some work or tasks are meant to be executed only by men; usually, these are more technical or physically strenuous jobs. It is a by-product of a rather partial approach toward how men and women are differentiated.

Lack of skill or education amongst women: Since girl children are kept out of school or made to drop out of school early, their skill and knowledge development cannot flourish. This translates to them being paid much less in work scenarios.

Lower wages: The Female Labour Force Participation Rate (FLPR) in India is contrastingly low, and reports suggest that post-covid-19, the gender pay disparity has deepened. Lower wages often discourage their morale from taking part-time jobs or gig work.

Despite many challenges and recurring obstacles, women in the gig economy and across all other sectors have shown remarkable performance in terms of work participation and performance on duty. Many women have claimed seats at the high table. It is now high time to encourage the movement of women workers in the gig economy with lucrative remunerations and varied job profiles where they can showcase their skills optimally. With safeguard schemes from the government will also provide impetus to women's upliftment in the gig economy. A recent survey has found that some key sectors that are likely to see an increase in women's employment are health and pharmaceuticals (by 59 percent), electrical and electronics (by 44 percent), and fast-moving consumer goods (perishable goods) industry (by 41 percent).

Gender-defined works have long stood in the way of women's progress, but now we see some hope as they have actively come forth and performed exponentially across sectors. Digital empowerment will give way for women to monetize their skills without going out. Their security is also significant concern regarding safety at workplace places and needs addressing.

Sidharth Kulbhaskar

Founder & Director,


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