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Research Paper | ‘Is Platform Work Decent Work?: A Case of Food Delivery Workers in Karnataka.’

September 7, 2021

The Centre for Labour Studies, NLSIU organised an event on September 2, 2021 to discuss the findings of their research on food delivery work in Bengaluru. The first phase of the research was conducted by the Centre for Labour Studies in coordination with the University of Sussex, and International Institute of Information Technology, Bengaluru. The research findings have been published as a paper titled: ‘Is Platform Work Decent Work?: A Case of Food Delivery Workers in Karnataka.’

Participants at the event on Thursday also discussed the impact of the COVID pandemic on gig economy and platform workers. The Centre aims to continue the second phase of its research on platform work in the coming months.

Paper Abstract:

This study is a contribution to the understanding of jobs in platform economy or gig economy. It attempts to examine the earnings of platform workers and explores their experiences on the job in Bengaluru. The study documented below the minimum wage earnings despite long work hours well beyond 8 hours on average per day for most platform workers engaged in various food delivery platforms in Karnataka. When direct operational costs and fixed costs borne by the workers were also factored in, the earnings from this work were found to be paltry. The workers experienced high levels of stress and anxiety compounded with financial precariousness given the uncertainty of earnings.

Most workers stayed with one platform at a time. Their everyday experiences revealed the numerous conditionalities imposed on these workers, a large majority of whom depended on food delivery work as their only source of livelihood. The extent of control imposed by platforms and their unilateral decisions regarding work conditions was in stark contrast with the discourse of flexibility and entrepreneurship they claimed to engender for their partners, and which had enticed many workers to join this work. The study therefore refuted the industry claims of platform work being very remunerative, and of workers being free agents, nor linked to any one platform. It raised the possibility of enforcing a unique employer-employee relationship in the sector.

The evidence from the study contributes a contrary view to the current mainstream discourse on platform work, where many policy and media representatives represent platform work being the answer to India’s problem of job creation. The evidence suggested that quality of platform jobs must be examined closely, and built a case for regulation in the sector. The study therefore also raised questions on the adequacy of regulatory coverage suggested for platform work in the recently legislated Labour Codes.

To read the full paper, click here.