GS Paper 2 : Welfare Schemes for Vulnerable sections
Qn. What do you understand by the term “platform workers” ? Examine if the new Code on Social Security Bill 2020 can address the labour related issues of the platform workers ? (250 words)
Why this Question
The questions has been asked so as to point out the inadequacies in the protection and security of “platform workers “ . Platform workers such as swiggy and zomato delivery professionals have often been in news protesting against the lack of social security and any benefits by the employer. The Union Government being competent to legislate on matters related to Social security and insurance has come up with this “Code on Social Security Bill 2020 “ so as to address the insecurity and exploitation of these platform workers.
This category of platform workers and gig workers is a new category of labour force that have come into existence as a result of the growing role of Information Technology.
The question has two parts to it.
The first part is a straightforward aspect of the question.All that is required is a simple definition of the term ‘platform workers’ .
Who are platform workers ?
“Platform work means a work arrangement outside of a traditional employer-employee relationship in which organizations or individuals use an online platform to access other organisations or individuals 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.”
Hence those groups of people who are involved in the above mentioned work fall under the category of platform workers.
The second part of the Question is an ‘Examine’ type of question. Hence we have to find out to what extent can the new bill successfully address the problems faced by these platform workers.
Increasing burden on the workers :
The new code mandates that the aggregators (Swiggy & Amazon) need to contribute between 1-2% of their annual turnover, excluding taxes or cess payable to the central government, as contribution to social security funds for gig and platform workers.
However the voices within the industry have said that this growing cost will be eventually passed on to the platform workers. The bill includes no safeguard to prevent this passing on the burden on the shoulders of the platform workers.
Boundaries separating the workers are not clear:
The 2020 Bill introduces definitions for ‘gig worker’ and ‘platform worker’.
Gig workers refer to workers outside the “traditional employer-employee relationship”. Platform workers are those who are outside the “traditional employer-employee relationship” and access organisations or individuals through an online platform and provide services for payment.
Consider the example of a driver working for an app-based taxi aggregator. Here, there is no employee-employer relationship. For example, appointment letters are not issued, social security benefits are absent, work hours are not regulated by the employer, and the driver may choose to work for a competitor taxi aggregator. Therefore, the nature of the work involved may lie outside the purview of a ‘traditional employer-employee relationship’, making him a ‘gigworker’. However, the driver is able to pursue this job only through an online platform. This would meet the definition of a ‘platform worker’ as well. Such a driver may also be an ‘unorganised worker’ as he may be self-employed.
With such overlap across definitions, it is unclear how schemes specific to these categories of workers will apply.
Absence of time frames:
There are no strict time limits within which the employers have to comply with the provisions of the Code on Social Security Bill 2020. This would give scope for the employers to not strictly adhere to the provisions thus making the Bill a toothless piece of legislation.
How should the answer for this question be like ?
A meaningful answer to this question should bring in the benefits of this new code in terms of providing maternity benefit, gratuity and Insurance to thousands of Platform Workers in the introduction of the answer. The introduction may have statistics such as the rate of growth of such platform workers in the recent years and the potential that platform work has in terms of generating employment.
With this in place, the content part can discuss about the issues pointed out in the above paragraphs.
The Conclusion should be worded in such as way that despite the benefits from the new Code on Social Security Bill 2020, these issues need to be addressed if the Code has to be really effective. Only then can the allegations from the platform workers and other critics that the new Code is ‘ pro -corporate’ be addressed.