ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Macro Frames of Microwork

Based on a qualitative study of women microworkers on Amazon Mechanical Turk, this paper explores the gendered modus operandi of global platform capitalism. For women from households negotiating caste and class status in small-town South India, digital labour platforms like AMT are the optimal choice; an answer to both economic necessity and familial validation. Women must, however, endure the platform’s coercive disciplining, striving to meet its unknowable metrics. With the pandemic, even as they are forced to contend with the oppressive precarity of digital labour—reducing job availability, falling pay, longer hours and the risk of suspension—work on AMT, paradoxically, becomes non-negotiable. The artificial intelligence-based regimes of the platform economy urgently need a norm shift towards gender equality and redistributive justice.

COVID-19 and Women Informal Sector Workers in India

The precarious nature of employment of women informal workers is examined using data from the Periodic Labour Force Survey (2018–19). To capture the gendered experiences of informal workers during the lockdown period, data from a series of rapid assessment studies is used. It was found that the unequal gendered division of domestic chores existed even before the onset of the pandemic, but the COVID-19- induced lockdowns have further worsened the situation. In terms of paid employment, women tend to work in risky, hazardous and stigmatised jobs as front-line health workers, waste-pickers, domestic workers, but do not receive the minimum wages as specified by the government.
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