ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Urban Underclass Labourers

The Life of Delivery Workers in South India

Delivery workers who constantly battle job insecurity and poor pay scales are excluded urban underclass workers. The squeezed labour policies of popular corporate food-ordering apps in India have been a catalyst for delivery workers to break their silence and form a unified working class consciousness. The online platform workers face exploitation and inequality as they are defined by platforms as delivery partners or independent contractors, which keep them outside the gambit of any social security schemes.

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The global economic restructuring and deepening policy of liberalisation in the post-Fordist regime has created the new workplace and the new worker in India. This new model of neo-liberal economic structure is more open, informal, flat, has flexible organisational structure and work culture, characterised by despatialisation where economic processes lose their fixed spatial attachments, disembodiment and mobility of labour (Upadhya and Vasavi 2008). This has resulted in the “liquefaction of labour,” where labour is becoming more transnationalised (Aneesh 2006). More­over, flexibilisation of labour and global informational economy have been identified as key features of work and employment (Beck 2000). Such flexible employment arrangements have transformed work, creating longer working hours and double shifts, eroding job security, and leading to a process of individualisation (Benner 2002). In addition, extensive use of information technology has enabled managements to exert greater control over labour through panoptical forms of surveillance and monitoring (Garson 1988; Thompson and Warhurst 1998).

The emergence of e-commerce changed the entire pattern of delivery services, and made it more dynamic with the inclusion of multitude of services. There were observable new dimensions to consumption culture. In earlier times, the doorstep service was limited to that of postal department or private couriers. It had limitations over the exchange of goods as well. With the onset of Covid-19, e-commerce received a novel boost, where no contact service charmed the consumers. In this development came the new class of workers known as online delivery workers. Therefore, in recent times, food delivery services have emerged as key employers in the urban and peri-urban areas.

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Updated On : 12th Jun, 2023
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