CPR-Centre for Science and Humanities (CSH) Workshop on 'Whims of a Digital Boss: The Story of Insecure App-Based Workers in Delhi'
Watch the full video (above) of the CPR- Centre for Science and Humanities (CSH) Workshop on 'Whims of a Digital Boss: The Story of Insecure App-Based Workers in Delhi', featuring Akriti Bhatia.
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.
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.