Perspectives on the Gig Economy


The Discussion Map charts important debates from the pages of EPW 


Digital technology is today at the centre of many important social and economic transactions. It has enabled a new relationship between mediators, but has also left us largely confused about the position of each stakeholder involved and the consequences of their actions. The commodity as well as work itself has been obfuscated in these times where both the labour-provider and the consumer are equipped with the same piece of technology, but are manipulated through it in different ways. The advent of the gig economy appears to have empowered the gig-worker as the owner of their labour, however the reality of the controls of the algorithm as well as the functioning of their actual work plays out differently. This discussion map is an attempt to reveal the distinction between the promise and the reality of work in the gig economy. It tries to understand how the binary between the traditional informal and formal economy has been reconfigured in the gig economy. 


This first article in this discussion looks specifically at Ola and Uber drivers, and how these applications have enabled a “new asset ownership class”. It argues that these platforms have given an opportunity for the formalisation of the labour of taxi drivers who were traditionally seen as informal workers. Owning a car on a loan and paying taxes brings them in the purview of the formal economy. This article has, however, been contested by another article titled “Formalising the Formal: A Critical Appraisal” where author Chhavi Sharma argues against the facade of the “driver-entrepreneur” and sheds light on the reality of being tied down to loans as gig-workers and the complications of being managed by algorithms. The paper highlights that security, assurances of work and income cannot be markers of the “formalisation” of the economy. There have been deviations as well as overlaps in the binary between formal and informal labour, as seen in even traditional gig work like drivers of kaali-peeli taxis. The third article looks into this aspect, and traces how the modes of  traditional taxi drivers gave way to the domination of these algorithm-based applications that completely took over the market. It shows how the algorithmic process of production leads to contention between forces of capital and the interests of labour. Finally, the last article looks at the condition of labour itself, in the gig economy and how ideas of the future of work (especially the digital transformation of work) has a significant interconnection with issues of gender, caste, class, ethnicity and other social determinants. 



A few other articles related to this discussion:

  1. Growing Gig Economy in India: Is More the Merrier?,  2022
  2. Workers in Gig and Platform Economies, 2022   
  3. Platform Capitalism and Edtech, 2022 


To contribute to a more comprehensive discussion map, please share links to other relevant articles in the comments section or write to us at with the subject line—“Gig Economy- Perspectives”


Curated by Priyam Mathur []


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