COVID19 - Information Campaign for Gig Workers

We worked on an information campaign for gig workers, helping them access important resources and information related to the Covid-19 pandemic

Tandem Research’s Future of Work & Learning Initiative has been working on an information campaign for gig workers, helping them access important resources and information related to the Covid-19 pandemic.

After our recent webinar with union leaders who represent delivery and rideshare workers, it became clear that gig workers were struggling to access relief measures from platforms, and often didn’t qualify for government schemes either. They were falling through the cracks, unable to access financial support and information on how to stay safe if they were continuing to work. Many were confused about what relief measures they were entitled to, if any at all, despite many platforms' very public campaigns explaining how they were supporting workers. As well as this, Covid-19 related information that was available from platforms was only released in English, which meant it wasn’t accessible to the large number of workers who speak Hindi, Telugu and Kannada.

With the support of an Omidyar Network India Rapid Response Grant, the Future of Work team began researching what specific information would be helpful to gig workers at this crucial time. Many were facing financial difficulties, fears about their health and that of their families, and confusion around how they could return to work safely in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.

We reached out to the platforms, requesting they share information with us about their Covid-19 relief measures for workers. Ola and Urban Company got back to us with details about their specific relief measures. We then collated available information on financial relief measures, applicable government schemes, information about health insurance and micro-loans, as well as PPE and general safety measures, and created accessible infographics and short videos covering these areas. We translated all the infographics and videos into English, Hindi, Telugu and Kannada to ensure that a wide range of workers could understand them. After all the information was finalised, we shared it with the union representatives from the Indian Federation of App-based Transport Workers, Indian Delivery Lions and the United Food Delivery Partners Union, who shared it with their networks through social media and WhatsApp channels.

During this project, we did face some challenges. Firstly, we were mostly reliant on publicly available information on relief measures which doesn’t always reflect what is happening on the ground. For example, many platforms announced relief measures but these schemes were virtually inaccessible to workers in practice. Secondly, because of the dynamic and uncertain nature of the pandemic, information was changing quickly, and there was lots of fine print to sift through related to eligibility for relief measures. Additionally, many relief measures differ depending on the state, as the efficiency of platform company staff and the willingness of state governments to participate, varies by state. Attempting to include this nuance in a rapid response campaign was challenging. Finally, we used social media and WhatsApp channels to disseminate the information pieces. After the initial posting, it becomes difficult to track exactly how the information spreads due to the privacy of some of these channels.

This was the first project of its kind for Tandem Research, as usually, we undertake long-form research projects, rather than rapid response information campaigns. However, with the urgency of the pandemic and the need for accessible, clear information for workers, we are developing our methods to ensure that our work is evolving with the context, and is focused on supporting vulnerable workers. The Covid-19 pandemic has thus prompted us to adapt our methods and outputs and ensure that our work is reaching those who need it the most.

If you are interested in how we are adapting our methods or you want to know more about this information campaign, please get in touch with us, at hello@tandemresearch.org!

Authors

Iona Eckstein

Iona Eckstein works on the Future of Work & Learning initiative at Tandem. Her work mainly focuses on the intersection between technology and labour, specifically; the evolution of the platform economy, digital labour, workplace surveillance, and more recently, the impact of Covid-19 on workers. She is also interested in feminist perspectives on the future of work, and how women and other marginalised groups can benefit from technological advances. She has conducted fieldwork in Nepal, Tanzania and Denmark, and has a B.Sc in Sociology from the University of Bristol and an M.Sc in Global Development from the University of Copenhagen.

Zothan Mawii

Zothan Mawii is Research Fellow at Tandem Research. Her current work focuses on the impact of digital technologies on labour markets in the global south and the intersection between gender and emerging technologies. She has been studying the impact of digital labour platforms in emerging economies, conducting extensive field work in India, South Africa, and Myanmar. Key to her research are questions around changing employment relations and the nature of work, worker well-being, and worker rights in technology mediated work. Her research interests include digital labour, online social movements, the care economy, feminist perspectives on technology, and internet rights. She has previously worked on issues around internet shutdowns and online violence against women. She holds a MA in Digital Culture and Society from King's College London and a BA (Hons) in English from St. Stephen's College, DU.