India is well on its way to becoming a $5 trillion economy by 2025. The primary source of bridging the gap between this goalpost is through the current youth of India, and their flexible work style, also known as the gig economy. 

India is shifting towards a flexible work culture, where 9 to 5 working hours is not the only option; instead, opting for side gigs and working beyond these timings are the new normal. With the pandemic pushing people out of their comfort zones and homes, the gig economy has helped many youth bounce back into the hustle with more opportunities. 

What Is Gig Economy? 

The term gig is slang for a temporary job, a glimpse of the future work culture. Gig workers are hired on a contractual basis and freelance for an interim period at a part-time job. People hire them through online services, and technology is an excellent boon to frequent users like these, as they’re readily available through online apps. 

Examples of gig workers are freelancers, independent contractors, project-based workers and part-time hires. These services are efficient, cost-saving and vary from driving an uber to writing freelance articles. 

The digitalisation of the information and communication industry led to job opportunities for the gig economy. As a result, digital technology-based on-demand platforms have created jobs and forms of employment that differ from existing offline transactions regarding accessibility, convenience and price competitiveness. Work, in general, is 9 to 5 working hours with all benefits included, whereas these gigs have no security but flexibility from the employee’s side. 

Who Is Part of the Gig Economy? 

According to a 2020 survey, around 12.2 crore Indians were laid off, resulting in a growing interest in freelance and contractual positions. India is one of the hubs of startups resulting in a major standoff between regular appointments. Millennials and Gen-Z refuse to be restricted by the 9 to 5 jobs and instead hope to freelance from a young age starting from their high school graduation. 

India has approximately 15 million freelancers in its economy, providing significant growth to the gig economy. The gig workers are divided into four different categories:

  • Self-employed individuals – They choose freelance work as their primary source of income
  • Casual earners – They choose to supplement their income through part-time work
  • Reluctant workers – Those who earn a living primarily through independent work but prefer traditional jobs
  • Financially-strained individuals – Those who perform part-time work out of necessity 

Thanks to the gig economy, consumers have an alternative to commercial products and industries. They choose the gig economy for convenience, better service, or both. Apps like Zepto and Dunzo are alternatives to conglomerates that are expensive or not easily accessible. 

Challenges of the Gig Economy

A gig economy is preferred over traditional working methods due to its flexibility and cost-effectiveness. However, this is a two-way street for both employers and employees due to an imbalance in the give-and-take equation. The challenges are towards the employees based on remuneration and working conditions.

  • For some employees, the flexibility of working gigs can disrupt the work-life balance, sleep patterns and daily activities. In a gig economy, flexibility often means that workers must be available whenever gigs come up, regardless of their other obligations, and must always be on the lookout for the next gig, as there’s no security after the current gig. 
  • Due to the generational effect, the younger workforce, such as millennials and Gen Zs, are also more likely to change jobs than older, more traditional workers. The gig economy is a component of this trend. The work function depends on the work culture and flexibility, like the work-from-home model nowadays. 

Finally, the fluid nature of gig economy transactions and relationships can erode long-term relationships between workers, employers, clients and vendors. Due to the short-term engagements, the fluidity can negate the advantages of long-term trust, customary practice and familiarity with clients and employers. 

Benefits of Gig Economy

The gig economy benefits differ depending on whether you are a business, a worker or a consumer.

  • If you have a business, you are not responsible for providing employee benefits such as sick leave or health insurance and are not always required to provide office space, equipment etc. A gig model also allows a company to hire experts for specific projects that would be too expensive to hire as full-time employees, so you can save money and time searching for a long-term employee. 
  • If you are a consumer, you frequently find that a gig model provides more options and convenience in the personal services offered. In many cases, higher-quality services are available at lower prices. Services are also more flexible, with more opportunities for service providers and times and locations of availability.
  • If you’re a worker, a gig economy can improve work-life balance as workers can choose freelance jobs they are interested in, offer new opportunities, and appear to fit their preferences and schedules. They do not confine themselves to a full-time job, and this type of freelance economy also allows workers to choose when and where they want to work. 

The freelance community in India assists vulnerable groups such as women, the disabled, the immuno-compromised and those living in rural or remote areas in finding suitable opportunities. 

Future of Gig Economy

In September 2020, the Code of Social Security bill was introduced in the Parliament of India. The Parliament implemented the bill in May 2021, which provides the gig workers with an additional layer of protection, including health and insurance benefits. Furthermore, gig workers would be entitled to 1-5 percent of an aggregator’s revenue. 

The pandemic has shown how fragile job security can be in a country like India. Many blue-collar workers already work in precarious conditions, face income insecurity and lack employment stability. Digitised platforms provide a bridge between gig workers and service providers to connect and make money through the gig economy directly. The personal satisfaction for the worker makes the gig worth it.

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