QUESTION : What are the provisions for gig workers and platform workers in the new labour code? What are the issues with the provision?”
The Code on Social Security Act, 2020 and Platform workers
WHY IN NEWS ?
The Code on Social Security Act, 2020, for the first time in Indian law, attempted to define ‘platform work’ outside of the traditional employment category.
THE SOCIAL SECURITY CODE ACT, 2020
- Social security funds for unorganised workers, gig workers and platform workers: It proposes to empower the centre to constitute a social security fund for provision of social security for the unorganised workers, platform workers or gig workers or any such class of workers.
- National Social Security for gig workers and platform workers:It proposes to bring unorganised sector, gig workers and platform workers under the ambit of social security schemes, including life and disability insurance, health and maternity benefits, provident fund and skill upgradation.
- It proposes to form a National Social Security Board that would recommend suitable schemes for the different sections of unorganised sector workers.
- The Social Security Code will extend the scope of the Employees State Insurance Corporation to all 740 districts in the country and that of the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation to all institutions with 20 or more workers as well as the self-employed.
PLATFORM WORK :
- The Act defines Platform work as a work arrangement outside of a traditional employer-employee relationship in which organisations or individuals use an online platform to access other organisations or individuals.
- Platform work aims to solve specific problems or to provide specific services or any such other activities which may be notified by the Central Government, in exchange for payment.
ABOUT GIG ECONOMY :
- A gig economy is a free market system in which temporary positions are common and organizations contract with independent workers for short-term engagements
- Examples of gig employees in the workforce could include freelancers, independent contractors, project-based workers and temporary or part-time hires.
- An estimated 56% of new employment in India is being generated by the gig economy companies across both the blue-collar and white-collar workforce.
ISSUES OF GIG WORKERS – Example of SWIGGY (Food Delivery platform)
- Swiggy workers have been essential during the pandemic.
- They have faced a continuous dip in pay, where base pay was reduced from ₹35 to ₹10 per delivery order, despite braving against the odds of delivering during Pandemic
- Stable terms of earning have been a key demand of delivery-persons
DOES NEW VERSION OF LABOUR CODE OFFER ANY RELIEF TO GIG WORKERS ?
- The three new labour codes passed by Parliament recently acknowledge platform and gig workers as new occupational categories in the making
- Defining gig workers is done in a bid to keep India’s young workforce secure as it embraces ‘new kinds of work’, like delivery, in the digital economy.
- In the Code on Social Security, 2020, platform workers are now eligible for benefits like maternity benefits, life and disability cover, old age protection, provident fund, employment injury benefits, and so on.
ISSUES WITH NEW LABOUR CODES :
- Platform delivery people can claim benefits, but not labour rights.
- This distinction makes them beneficiaries of State programmes but does not allow them to go to court to demand better and stable pay, or regulate the algorithms that assign the tasks.
- This also means that the government or courts cannot pull up platform companies for their choice of pay, or how long they ask people to work.
- The laws do not see them as future industrial workers.
- They are now eligible for government benefits but eligibility does not mean that the benefits are guaranteed. Actualising these benefits will depend on the political will at the Central and State government-levels.
- The language in the Code is open enough to imply that platform companies can be called upon to contribute either solely or with the government to some of these schemes. But it does not force the companies to contribute towards benefits or be responsible for workplace issues.
- Failing to delineate it from gig work and unorganised work: A categorical clarification could ensure that social security measures are provided to workers without compromising the qualities of platform work: flexibility and a sense of ownership.
- Misclassification of platform workers as ‘independent
contractors’ instead of employee status: Granting employee status to platform workers, guarantees minimum wage and welfare benefits.
- Given the temporary nature of workers in the gig economy, there are question marks over social security for them.
- Flexibility of the platform
o The algorithm affects pricing per unit of work, allocation of work, and hours.
o The Code states the provision of basic welfare measures as a joint responsibility of the Central government, platform aggregators, and workers.
Need for welfare of platform workers:
The dependence of companies on platform workers merits a jointly assumed responsibility by public and private institutions to deliver welfare measures.
- Doorstep delivery during pandemic:
Platform workers were responsible for delivery of essential services during the pandemic at great personal risk to themselves.
- Public infrastructures:
They have also been responsible for keeping platform companies afloat despite the pandemic-induced financial crisis. This has cemented their role as public infrastructures who also sustain demand-driven aggregators
WAY FORWARD :
- To mitigate operational breakdowns in providing welfare services, a tripartite effort by the State, companies, and workers to identify where workers fall on the spectrum of flexibility and dependence on platform companies is critical.
- A socio-legal acknowledgement of the heterogeneity of work in the gig economy, and the ascription of joint accountability to the State and platform companies for the delivery of social services is the way forward.
- Therefore, it is important to hand-hold this sector and help it grow. We need policies and processes that give clarity to the way the sector should function.
- The ‘platform worker’ identity has the potential to grow in power and scope, but it will be mediated by politicians, election years, rates of under-employment, and large, investment- heavy technology companies that are notorious for not complying with local laws.
QUESTION : Examine the reasons behind changing dynamics of Indian foreign policy and challenges impacting relations with neighbours.
- Changing dynamics of Indian foreign policy
WHY IN NEWS ?
- As the third India-U.S. 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue concluded recently, New Delhi’s diplomatic skills will be tested, as the country is now a part of the U.S.’s security architecture.
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION :
- The build-up to the talks was extraordinary, as in the words of the U.S. Defence Secretary – “India will be the most consequential partner for the US in the Indo-Pacific this Century”.
- The strategic focus: During the talks, the U.S. made an all-out attack on China and the threat it posed to democratic nations.
- The centrepiece of the dialogue was the signing of the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) for Geo-Spatial Cooperation.
Strengthening India-US ties, but at a price:
- Challenging India’s strategic autonomy: Though, access to this kind of highly classified information is an advantage, it must be recognised that the information comes with a price – such as a two-way exchange of information.
- Anti-China stance:
o The primary push for getting India to sign the foundational agreements was the threat posed by China and by signing the agreement India has shown its willingness to become part of the wider anti-China ‘coalition of the willing’.
- Compromising neutrality: By signing on to BECA at this juncture, India has allegedly compromised its previous policy of neutrality, and of maintaining its equi-distance from power blocs.
- A pragmatic deal?
o In keeping with the current state of global disorder and an ideologically agnostic attitude is better suited to the prevailing circumstances of today.
INDIA’S ROLE IN AFGHANISTAN :
- India must decide on how best to try and play a role in Afghanistan without getting stuck.
- India had subscribed to an anti-Taliban policy and was supportive of the Northern Alliance (prior to 2001).
- The new policy that dictates India’s imperatives today, finds India not unwilling to meet the Taliban.
- India must decide how a shift in policy at this time would serve India’s objectives in Afghanistan, considering the tremendous investment it has made in recent decades to shore up democracy in that country.
CHANGING DYNAMICS :
- Recent shifts in trajectory: For instance, after having distanced itself from the Quad for years, on account of its security and military connotations and anti-China bias, India has more recently waived its objections.
- Quad has become more anti-China in its orientation: The invitation to Australia to participate in the Malabar Naval Exercises this year, to which the other two Quad members had already been invited, further confirms this impression.
- Neighbours stepping out of India’s sphere of influence:
o While, both China and the U.S. separately, seem to be making inroads and enlarging their influence in India’s neighbourhood, India seems to be losing grounds.
o For example, the Maldives has chosen to enter into a military pact with the U.S. to counter Chinese expansionism in the Indian Ocean region.
- Impacting China-India relations: Since 1988, India has pursued a policy of avoiding conflicts with China. This will become increasingly problematic as India tilts towards the U.S. sphere of influence.
For example, even after Doklam (2017) India saw virtue in the Wuhan and Mamallapuram discourses, to maintain better relations.
- Impacting India-Russia relations: India-Russia relations in recent years have not been as robust as in the pre-2014 period. It is difficult to see how this can be sustained, if India is seen increasingly going into the U.S. embrace.
WAY AHEAD :
- Maintaining close ties with Afghanistan: India must try and play a role in Afghanistan without getting sucked into the Afghan quagmire. India must shift its policy, considering the tremendous investment it has made in recent decades to shore up democracy in that country.
- Balancing the opponents: With its full membership, Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), which has China and Russia as its main protagonists and was conceived as an anti-NATO entity will test India’s diplomatic skills.
- Role of Non-Aligned Movement (NAM): From which India has increasingly distanced itself and still plays a key role in strengthening ties from the African and Latin American group.
- Maintaining ties with Russia: This is one relationship which India will need to handle with skill and dexterity, as it would be a tragedy if India-Russia relations were to deteriorate at a time when the world is in a state of disorder.
- Holding grounds in West Asia: While India has been complacent about improved relations with the United Arab Emirates (UAE), it needs to ensure, through deft diplomatic handling, that the latest UAE-Israel linkage does not adversely impact India’s interests in the region.
- While India moves towards more robust engagement with the U.S., it must also consider impact of such move on the relations with the other countries.
- In the changing geopolitical order India must build a strong foundation based on both India’s civilizational values as well as new considerations.