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This paper explores the nature of work, labour and employment relations of app-based (and gig economy) workers extracting insights from 150 interviews among Ola & Uber cab drivers and focus group discussions among 50 Swiggy & Zomato food delivery agents.
It examines the interactions (and lack of interactions) of these gig economy workers with their "digital bosses" in the form of the apps to whom the workers must report to, follow instructions, meet targets of and receive penalties and incentives from, even as they are considered to be working as "self-employed", "mini-entrepreneurs", "freelancers" and "independent contractors". This work therefore navigates through the concepts of contractualisation, tied/attached labour and disposability of a worker - producing and adding to the category of "urban insecure labour". While looking at this interplay between the self and technology, one therefore poses a larger question of whether the platform economy provides a model of self-employment or self-exploitation.
It further questions the nature of employment arrangements and contracts, quality of work, security, grievance redressal mechanism and accountability of the companies involved. One also investigates into whether there is any organisation and unionisation of these workers for collective bargaining and what are the challenges encountered in the process.
About the Speaker
Akriti Bhatia is a final year PhD research scholar at the Delhi School of Economics, Department of Sociology, Delhi University, specialising in urban, labour issues and political economy. She holds her Masters in Sociology from Jawaharlal Nehru University and Bachelors in Economics from Shri Ram College of Commerce, University of Delhi. She also pursued public policy from Takshashila Institution (a Bangalore based think tank). She is a columnist and hosts a show called 'Shram Aur Hum' on Workers Unity, an independent workers' media platform. She is also the Founding Partner of public opinion platform Jan Ki Baat.
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This is the hundredth and thirteenth in a series of Urban Workshops planned by the Centre de Sciences Humaines (CSH), New Delhi and Centre for Policy Research (CPR). These workshops seek to provoke public discussion on issues relating to the development of the city and try to address all its facets including its administration, culture, economy, society and politics. For further information, please contact: Olivier Telle of CSH at firstname.lastname@example.org, Partha Mukhopadhyay at email@example.com or Marie-Hélène Zerah at firstname.lastname@example.org