Unexceptional neoliberalism: enterprise and informality in the gig economy of India

Nair, Gayatri
Divyadarshi, Jennifer
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Southern Centre for Inequality Studies (SCIS)
University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg
This paper examines the conditions of work in the platform economy across India, which has witnessed a significant expansion in the number of gig workers joining platform enterprises. The precarity underscoring work in the gig economy is now widely acknowledged, but what does this entail for workers in India and the global South who have typically been a part of the informal economy? The paper explores whether the absence of labour regulation and social security in gig work marks it as an extension of informal work. Based on interviews with gig workers and rooted in their experiences of work that remains unregulated, we consider whether gig work is an instance of “unexceptional neoliberalism” as it extends informality to new sectors. The paper unpacks the impact of the neoliberal state’s agenda of promoting enterprise on gig workers who are now subject to algorithmic controls of platforms, alongside “traditional” constraints of caste, class and gender, even as they are considered by the State and digital platforms to be autonomous entrepreneurial subjects.
Digital Labour Platforms, Inequality, Gig Economy, India, Caste, Surveillance, Informality, Neoliberalism, App Based Work, Digital Platform, Gig Workers
Nair, G. and Divyadarshi, J. 2022. Unexceptional neoliberalism: enterprise and informality in the gig economy of India. Future of Work(ers) SCIS Working Paper Number 35, Southern Centre for Inequality Studies, University Of The Witwatersrand.