Food delivery partners’ double whammy: Decreasing income levels, rising petrol costs. data

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Making deliveries on time.  Illustration of a food delivery worker riding a vehicle to drop a delivery

Making deliveries on time. Illustration of a food delivery worker riding a vehicle to drop a delivery. Photo Credit: Marcela Vieira

A survey report on food delivery partners by the National Council of Applied Economic Research validates several common beliefs, such as workers being young graduates who work extended hours for better pay and independence. However, the study also reveals new insights: a sizable portion of them are sole breadwinners in their families and a notable share experienced a drop in income compared to their previous jobs. The findings further indicate a decline in their real income over time even as the share of income that they spent on fuel has risen, resulting in a double whammy.

  1. A majority of them agreed that deliveries can be increased if they worked harder, while a similar share also said that this was not in their control due to traffic and restaurant delays.

  2. A significant share of them spent a sizeable amount buying new phones and vehicles for the job

Profile of a food delivery partner

An overview of the average food delivery worker, encompassing their background and skill sets, according to the survey

  • The typical food delivery worker is a 29-year-old male

  • Nearly one-fourth (23.8%) of these workers are in their first job, and of this group, 88% are students.

  • Food delivery workers lack social security protection. Only 61.9% of delivery workers receive rations, 12.2% possess an Ayushman Bharat card, 7.1% are registered on the e-Shram portal, and 4% are enrolled in the Atal Pension Yojana.

  • These workers are considered informal labor, lacking employer-provided social welfare and job security, although some may have accident insurance.

  • Workers on long shifts average 10.8 hours, while those on short shifts work about 5.2 hours.

  • A third of the workers have college degrees, and 93% have at least completed 10th standard.

  • 43.7% of workers are the sole wage earners, and 68.9% are non-migrants who work in their hometowns

  • On average, workers stay in their food delivery roles for about 14.1 months, though a third indicate that they have no plans to leave.

  • In terms of tenure, 28.1% have been working in such platforms for less than a year and 25.7% for 1-2 years, making them pandemic-era hires. Meanwhile, 24.7% started before the pandemic, having worked for over two years

  • Food delivery workers work 27.8% more hours than the average urban young male and earn 59.6% more. However, after accounting for fuel expenses, this income advantage narrows to 5%.

Incentives

Chart 1 | A look at the reasons given by workers for joining the food delivery platforms (% respondents)

Charts appear incomplete? Click to remove AMP mode

Basis of entry

Chart 2 | How did workers enter the food delivery platform? (% respondents)

Job Requirements

To work for a food delivery service, a worker is required to own a two-wheeler and know how to use it, have a smartphone, and buy a kit that includes a T-shirt and bags.

Old vs new job

Chart 3 | The chart contrasts different facets of employment in food delivery platforms with the prior jobs of those who work long shifts in food delivery

Income and expenditure

Examining the change in a food delivery worker’s income levels due to this new job

Chart 4 | % of long-shift workers who said their real income (new income minus previous job’s monthly income) increased/decreased/remained same

Chart 5 | Year-wise nominal and real monthly income of long-shift food delivery workers (in ₹ thousand)

Chart 6 Year-wise share of fuel costs for long-shift food delivery workers as a share of their income

Chart 7 | Average monthly earnings, fuel costs, and monthly spending (excluding fuel) for long-shift platform workers

Perceptions about delivery

The charts show the share of respondents who said the following:

Chart 8 | The number of deliveries can be increased if a worker tries harder

Chart 9 | The number of deliveries a worker makes is not in their control

Chart 10 The worker can improve their rating if they are polite to their customers

Chart 11 The worker has to spend a lot of time waiting at a restaurant for an order.

Methodology

NCAER conducted a phone survey involving 924 food delivery workers from a specific platform. The survey spanned 28 cities, covering Tier 1, 2, and 3 cities across all regions of India—North, South, East, and West. It included both active and inactive or former workers, who had employment durations ranging from less than a year to over two years, working either full-time or part-time.

This report, the first output of a three-part research program undertaken by NCAER extensively explores the socio-economic implications of workers engaged in the food delivery platform industry, shedding light on their employment patterns, incomes, and work environments. Parts two and three of the research program reports, to be released subsequently, will evaluate the socio-economic impact of food delivery platforms on restaurants, and their systemic impact on India’s economy and labor markets.

Also read: Gig Workers Bill: reading between the lines

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