The escalating costs of living are becoming an existential challenge for a vast majority worldwide, impacting both developing nations like Pakistan and developed countries in Europe. The confluence of shrinking purchasing power and stagnant wages is exacerbating the plight of low-income groups, particularly daily wage earners and those engaged in informal sectors or the gig economy. This struggle is acutely felt in Pakistan, where inflation continues to rise.
While officially classified as employed, gig workers in informal sectors or associated with online companies face substantial challenges due to inadequate working conditions. Despite putting in strenuous efforts and overtime, these workers are often ineligible for the benefits and security enjoyed by their counterparts in traditional employment. This scenario is evident in Pakistan’s ‘gig economy,’ exemplified by delivery personnel, including women, earning their livelihood through online platforms.
However, recent developments in Europe, as reported by Reuters, indicate a potential shift. A Brussels labour court ruled that Deliveroo couriers should be recognized as employees, opening the possibility of enhanced benefits and overturning a prior judgment favoring the British food delivery company. While this decision pertains to a specific group of bicycle couriers, its implications could extend to other Belgian couriers, challenging the prevailing gig economy dynamics.
Deliveroo, a British online food delivery company operating globally, expressed disappointment with the ruling and announced plans to appeal to the Belgian Court of Cassation. The company defends its model, emphasizing the provision of flexible work, which it claims is highly valued by its riders in Belgium.
If upheld, the ruling suggests that couriers may be entitled to benefits such as a fixed salary, sick leave, and paid vacation, challenging the traditional gig worker classification. This development aligns with broader trends in Europe, where lawmakers have provisionally agreed on a bill aimed at affording workers in online companies, including Deliveroo and Uber, employee benefits—a groundbreaking move if adopted. The struggle for rights and recognition in the gig economy is resonating globally, underscoring the evolving dynamics of work and employment in the modern era.