Worker Wellbeing on Digital Work Platforms in India: A Study of OlaCabs and UrbanClap in New Delhi

How are digital work platforms shaping worker wellbeing? How should we think about the responsiblitities of platforms towards workers?

Digital platforms linking labor demand and supply can bring new market efficiencies and create opportunities for micro- entrepreneurship. Yet, they can also pose significant risks for labour, driving down wages, creating precarious conditions of work, and increasing worker alienation.

This study looks at labor wellbeing in India’s platform economy. In a number of industrialised economies, the platform economy is disrupting existing structures of formal work, contributing to the creation of new forms of non-standard, gig-based work. In contrast, in India, informality has been a persistent feature of the economy, with most workers working in low-wage work, for multiple employers, and without access to any formal social insurance or protection.

Drawing on in-depth interviews with workers on two platforms, Ola Cabs (ride-hailing) and UrbanClap (home-services) in New Delhi, this paper draws attention to the motivations, experiences and expectations of platform workers.

What impact are digital work platforms having on worker wellbeing in India and their perceptions thereof? In what ways is the platform economy recasting existing structures and practices of informality? What kinds of policies are needed to ensure labor wellbeing and protection?

This project was supported by the Emerging Markets Sustainability Dialogues (EMSD) Program of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH on behalf of
the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

It is part of a broader research project looking at labor wellbeing in the platform economy in India, Argentina (CIPPEC), and South Africa (HSRC). Our partners in South Africa (HSRC) and Argentina ( CIPPEC) undertook similar studies, documenting the experiences and priorities of workers. Combined insights were presented to the T20 in the form of a policy brief.


Authors

Urvashi Aneja

Urvashi studies the politics, social impacts, and ethics of technology transitions in the global south. She has written extensively on the challenges and risks of AI in India, the emerging gig economy and labor well-being, data governance and gender and technology. She has served on government committees for artificial intelligence and frontier technologies. Urvashi is also an Associate Fellow at Chatham House, a Tech and Social justice champion at the World Economic Forum, and a former member of the T20 Task Force for the Future of Work in the G20. She regularly writes for national media publications and has been quoted in the BBC, Reuters, CNBC, Times of India, and Indian Express, among others. Previously she was a Research Fellow at the Observer Research Foundation and Associate Professor at the Jindal School of International Affairs. Urvashi has a Doctorate from the Department of Political Science and International Relations at the University of Oxford

Aishwarya Shridhar

Aishwarya Shridhar is a Research Associate Tandem Research. Her current work is focused on the narratives of workers in India’s digital platform economy. Aishwarya is interested in the intersection of social identities with experiences of work. Her Master’s thesis is centred on perspectives of labour and community among sex workers in Mumbai. She has a MA in Social Work (Community Organisation and Development Practice) from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, and a BA in English Literature from Lady Shri Ram College for Women, New Delhi.