A gig economy is a free market system in which organisations contract with independent workers for short-term engagements. According to the report, India's gig workforce is expected to expand to 2.35 crore by 2029-30. The report estimates that in 2020–21, 77 lakh (7.7 million) workers were engaged in the gig economy. They constituted 2.6% of the non-agricultural workforce or 1.5% of the total workforce in India.
Despite such promising numbers and the uptick of the gig economy over the years owing to the rapid digitisation, gig workers do not benefit from labour regulations pertaining to wages, hours, working conditions, and the right to collective bargaining. In this light, NITI Aayog recommended extending social security measures for such workers and their families in partnership mode as envisaged in the Code on Social Security.
Pay levels, job security, and flexible hours are the top three things gig workers seek from their work environment. In terms of primary life goals, 29% aspire to be self-reliant, 27% want to attain career success, and 25% aspire to advance their family’s future.
Average gig worker earnings total about Rs 18,000 per month, with “assured pay" models compensating higher on average than more flexible 'pay-per-task' models. Access to institutional credit needs to be enhanced by virtue of financial products specifically designed for platform workers and those interested in setting up their platforms. Venture capital funding, grants, and loans from banks and other funding agencies should be provided to platform businesses of all sizes.
Gig workers across segments reported a mix of deficits and surpluses in any given month, indicating they can benefit from access to flexible liquidity and liquid savings solutions. In a given month, over 15% of workers faced a financial deficit of Rs5,000 on average. Based on the survey, over 80% of gig workers do not own a credit card, of which two-thirds feel the need. About 6.6% have current or outstanding loans, 11.5% have active EMIs, and 26.3% borrow from peers. The report said only 25% were able to save regularly - children’s education and medical emergencies were the reasons cited.
Given that the vetting process is thorough, it poses a significant challenge for gig workers and freelancers to reach out to the formal financial sector. Realising the gap, many fintech companies have now started tapping this market and providing solutions, which otherwise was difficult for someone without a regular salary. However, very recently, many Indian startups have come forward to uplift the crediting facilities for gig workers in India.
Fintechs are now partnering with the digital platforms that employ these workers to facilitate access to a few benefits, namely access to credit lines and insurance. However, the majority of them are still in pilot mode; these platforms are more like fintech NBFCs that sanction loans to gig workers.