Gig economy: Uttar Pradesh sees highest rise in freelance workers - Hindustan Times
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Gig economy: Uttar Pradesh sees highest rise in freelance workers

ByPrateek Shukla, Lucknow
Dec 27, 2022 12:46 AM IST

Flexible hours drawing youngsters, employers save crucial input costs. In the last three months alone, over 10,000 workers from Uttar Pradesh signed up on an online platform connecting employers and freelance workers

Uttar Pradesh has recorded the highest participation in the number of freelance workers in the last fiscal quarter as compared to any other state, according to the recently-released Taskmo Gig Index. A breakdown of the data reveals that over 70% of gig (part-time) workers in the state are below 30 years of age and the trend is most popular among students between 18-23 years.

According to entrepreneurs and HR professionals, this rise in the popularity of gig work -- short-term contracts or freelance work as opposed to permanent jobs -- has been steady in Uttar Pradesh and the trend, they say, is here to stay (REPRESENTATIVE IMAGE )
According to entrepreneurs and HR professionals, this rise in the popularity of gig work -- short-term contracts or freelance work as opposed to permanent jobs -- has been steady in Uttar Pradesh and the trend, they say, is here to stay (REPRESENTATIVE IMAGE )

In the last three months alone, more than 10,000 workers from the state signed up on Taskmo, an online platform connecting employers and freelancers. Besides, U.P-based users on the platform witnessed a 10-fold increase whereas the demand from recruiters saw a 30X growth.

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According to entrepreneurs and HR professionals, this rise in the popularity of gig work -- short-term contracts or freelance work as opposed to permanent jobs -- has been steady in Uttar Pradesh and the trend, they say, is here to stay. In U.P, as in other parts of India, the proliferation of digital platforms and apps that connect employers with freelancers is driving the growth of the gig economy.

Earlier this year, a first-of-its-kind NITI Aayog report on the gig economy had also predicted 90-110 lakh additions to the gig workforce in India by 2025. The think-tank revealed that 47% of part-time work is in medium-skilled jobs, about 22% is in high-skilled, and the remaining 31% is in low-skilled jobs. Another such research by Lucknow-based TeamLease Services found that around 56% of new jobs in India -- both blue and white collar -- are being generated by the gig economy.

Why is gig work becoming popular in U.P?

As per experts, the flexibility provided by freelance employers resonates with students, stay-at-home parents, and people with disabilities, who may not be able to commit to traditional full-time employment. “I started freelancing along with my full-time job to earn a side income. I landed a freelance gig as a content moderator. I work on my freelance projects in my spare time,” said Nayana Mishra, a Noida-based professional.

Most freelancers in U.P. are concentrated in cities like Lucknow, Noida, Agra, Prayagraj, and Kanpur. However, other cities are also catching up fast. For instance, Prateek Maheshwari, founder of Punji Financial Services, a start-up based in Bareilly, has hired three freelancers to work on various accounting software and app development projects. He is actively seeking to hire more freelancers this upcoming financial year. Similarly, Shanu Raghuvanshi, founder of Kasganj-based Unizaal Pharmaceuticals, hired two freelancers for designing art, chalking out a social media strategy and marketing. He has recently raised funding from a venture capitalist and is looking to hire more gig workers.

Explaining the popularity of short-term contracts, Pranav Dwivedi, a mentor and consultant for state-based start-ups, said, “Start-up founders tell me that several U.P. residents, who have worked in cities like Delhi, Mumbai, and Bengaluru, are now back in their home state for remote working. They have the skills and finish the job within set deadlines, making it a convenient solution for all.”

He added, “The vast improvement in infrastructure and transportation has also made a huge difference in the job landscape. Gone are the days when a company would hire someone just for field visits.

Thanks to new expressways and improved roads, people can now conveniently travel from U.P. to nearby cities whenever required. According to the members of the Indian Industrial Association, employers are hiring freelancers for audits, surveys, and building project reports. Several of them are also being hired as consultants in multiple industries.”

How did the pandemic play a catalyst?

Although the trend of short-term contracts has been on a rise for about a decade now, the outbreak of the Covid pandemic and the subsequent “great resignation” period gave a massive push to the gig economy all across the world. In those uncertain times, employers were able to save crucial input costs by hiring part-time workers as freelancers who just charge for the work they do and there are no other expenses -- like provident fund or insurance benefits -- associated with them. As for the employees, freelance gigs provided a way to earn without the compulsion of putting in fixed hours.

This mutually beneficial arrangement remained attractive even after the world came out of the ghastly shadow of the Covid pandemic. In particular, Uttar Pradesh recorded several skilled and semi-skilled workers returning to the state from other states and countries in the wake of the pandemic. A large percentage of these workers never went back to their old jobs. Instead, they stayed back in their home state and picked up freelance contracts. The jobs ranged from that of tech experts to delivery partners.

Concerns around ‘gigification’

Gig workers may face challenges in terms of earning a stable and sufficient income, as they may not have a guaranteed number of hours or a steady stream of work. Also, the gig economy has often been criticised for the erosion of worker rights. Therefore, it is usually not preferred by those who shoulder the responsibility of their families.

Another concern associated with it is the lack of benefits and protections that are typically provided to full-time employees — such as paid time off, health insurance, and retirement savings plans.

“Freelancers are usually hired when a company intends to save operational costs. Providing paid time-off and other such benefits to gig workers would defeat the purpose of hiring them,” said the owner of a Noida-based B2B enterprise requesting anonymity.

Laws governing gig economy

According to the Code on Wages, 2019, a universal minimum wage and floor wage should be provided to all organised and unorganised sectors, including gig workers. It is worth mentioning that the Code on Social Security, 2020 (India) defines a gig worker as “a person who performs work or participates in work arrangements and earns from such activities, outside of the traditional employer-employee relationship”.

When asked if Uttar Pradesh has any laws dedicated to protecting gig workers’ rights, Rajendra Singh, special secretary, state’s labour department, said, “The existing labour laws very well apply to the freelancers as well. At this point, we don’t have laws designed specifically for freelance workers.”

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