Home / Money / Only 22% of gig workers in India primary earners, says report

NEW DELHI: A modest 22% of gig workers in India are primary earners who support their families and view their jobs as core livelihood, while 39% co-earn with other family members and view their gig as temporary transition to a "better opportunity". The rest are dependents with no-to-low obligations who view gig work as a means to earn extra cash, as per a report.

KarmaLife, a financial solutions provider for gig and blue-collar workers, and LEAD at Krea University have released the report titled GigPulse. The report is based on a detailed survey of 503 active gig workers from across industries, including hyperlocal and city logistics, e-commerce logistics, flexi-staffing, food services, and FoS sales, who use KarmaLife’s platform.

Most gig workers in India are young, with a median age of 27 years, of which 37% are married, 29% with children, and 28% are migrants, as per the report. About 60% are motivated to work to support their family. In contrast, 18% claim gig work helps them earn extra pocket money.

Pay levels, job security and flexible hours are the top three things gig workers seek from their work environment. In terms of primary life goals, 29% aspire to be self-reliant, 27% want to attain career success and 25% aspire to advance their family’s future. The report added that almost 80% of gig workers report on-the-job learning of ‘valuable skills’ though it was unclear to what extent these skills would help them progress in their careers.

Average gig worker earnings total about 18,000 per month, with “assured pay" models compensating higher on average than more flexible ‘pay-per-task’ models. On the expenditure side, most workers report hand-to-mouth finances, with a significant portion of earnings focused on essentials (rent, groceries) and working assets (mobile, vehicle maintenance).

Gig workers across segments reported a mix of deficits and surpluses in any given month, indicating they can benefit from access to flexible liquidity as well as liquid savings solutions. In a given month, over 15% of workers faced a financial deficit of 5,000 on an average. Based on the survey, over 80% of gig workers do not own a credit card, of which two-thirds feel the need.

About 6.6% have current or outstanding loans, 11.5% have active EMIs, and 26.3% borrow from peers. The report said only 25% were able to regularly save - children’s education and medical emergencies were the reasons cited.

“This is a time-critical initiative to capture granular insights and build a data-backed narrative on the lives of a pivotal workforce segment in our country. There is too scarce data on worker identities, household context, needs and aspirations, work patterns, financial behaviours and resilience mechanisms. Through this partnership with LEAD at KREA University, we hope to create a rich longitudinal data asset that can help the ecosystem at large" said, Rohit Rathi, Co-founder & CEO, KarmaLife.

Sharon Buteau, Executive Director, LEAD at Krea University, said, “We find this especially relevant as India is on the cusp of implementing a new social security code that bestows first-time recognition to gig workers and promises them deeper social protection. We plan to leverage this database for further study relevant to policy actors."

Despite perceived financial vulnerability to contingencies that could impede their earning continuity, only 20% of gig workers see insurance as a viable strategy, while 27% self purchase insurance, whereas 43% do not have any insurance. However, 49% claim that COVID has made them rethink their insurance decisions. While a majority receive accidental insurance from employers, less than 3% get any pension benefits.

This emerging segment is key to a flourishing labor force in India. To help them grow, they require an enabling ecosystem to support them and provide solutions to help them be more financially resilient, as well as other aspects such as strengthening their career trajectory by means of upskilling and training.

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