Are Gig Workers on the Fringe?
My husband shared my recent blog on a WhatsApp group we’re both part of. Now, everyone on that group knew it was written by me, and shared their feedback directly with me…except for one person, who chose instead to dialogue with my husband.
So, I tried to understand the psychology behind the act. Because, I’m on the same group and the author of the blog, and I am — at least I hope so — as approachable. Then it struck me, that perhaps the reason was that I am a woman writer, and currently not part of the corporate world.
It was assumed that a “working man” would have more knowledge on the issue.
Initially I felt slighted, because the reader herself was a woman. But, when I dug deeper I realised it’s a malaise of the society we live in — we are still not able to totally accept, and perhaps even respect professionals who choose to work from home and opt out of full-time jobs in organisations.
Even though the pandemic has made many of us look homeward, it is still those who have full-time jobs — even at home — who are acknowledged and accepted more than those who choose to be gig workers, freelancers, solopreneurs or consultants.
There are two levels of biases here: One, being a woman (despite the bias sometimes emerging from women), and two, being a gig worker, no matter how professionally qualified and experienced.
As a writer, I’ve always approached every subject in a gender neutral way, and never intentionally made it a feminist issue.
In fact, the “pink” in Pink Pinjra was initially supposed to represent the voices of women who stay in their cages, till such a time as they are brave enough to share their stories of transformation…
A screaming demand from the male populace (who also wanted their voices to be heard), converted Pink Pinjra into a platform where anyone who had chosen a particular medium of expression, to overcome certain life situations, could tell their stories of triumph.
Can gender be ignored in any equation though? Like was said by feminists of yore, “the personal is the political”.
Which essentially means that what happens to you on a personal micro level is a reflection of what is happening at a macro level in society. And these gender experiences can be both few or varied, subtle or overt.
What is more subtle is the power hierarchy, or hegemony, as sociologists term it, of the employed over the unemployed…
Often seen by lack of acknowledgement of one’s work status, and, in conversations, a deliberate attempt to ignore the voices of those without a clear work status.
Now, I’ve been a freelancer for 10 out of the 20 years of my professional life. Have I ever felt the need to prove my status to anyone? No. Simply because I enjoyed my work.
Why now then do I bring up the issue? Because, with a partner in the equation, the gender dynamics have become clearer.
Am I complaining? No. What I’m doing is highlighting the issue to make the world a more sensitive place to all those who are “on the fringe”.
It’s easy for intellectuals to talk at length about the wrongs of a country or people, about racism and gun laws, but are we consciously looking inward at one’s own thoughts, words and deeds, that may unknowingly impact those on the fringes…and any fringe at that!
Gig workers will always be on the fringe.
A recent study by government of India’s Niti Aayog says, “The gig workforce is expected to expand to 23.5 million workers by 2029–30... 4.1% of the total livelihood in India .” The numbers are surely indicative of the times ahead, but what is clear is that they are still a small fraction of the workforce — only 4.1% of the whole.
Governments, of course, are doing their bit to put social reforms in place by asking industry to provide gig workers with sick leave, accidental insurance, health cover etc. But the real shift has to be made by society itself, starting from parents whose kids may choose unconventional jobs, and opt for more creative pursuits that may also translate to “no fixed income”.
As a society are we ready for the change?
Are we brave enough to not just accept, but encourage and acknowledge those who choose a way of working that works for them? Are we ready to also accept that all genders make significant contributions to the workforce, even though they may do it in their own unique formats (read, flexi hours)?
I think we are…
The umpteen new-age startups that provide women and gig workers with platforms to learn and network are a ray of hope. These healthy support systems, that identify and hone the skillsets and talents of gig workers, will propel them toward further growth.
What is also significant is that there is nary an industry today that does not have gig workers. So, fringe or no fringe, the gig economy is here to stay, and how you carve a niche in it for yourself is totally up to you.
What you should definitely not do, though, is feel apologetic about the way you wish to conduct your life, career or business. Man, woman, freelancer, mainstream, everyone is important, and everyone’s voice must be heard.
Dominant voices may be many, but yours is unique.
So find your chosen medium of expression, and connect with those around you to discuss, vent, learn or even teach what’s deep within your heart.
I write about everything I feel strongly about on Pink Pinjra… How do you express yourself?
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