Work4Food: Algorithm to Ensure Minimum Wages for Food Delivery Workers

Researchers at the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi have developed an innovative new system called Work4Food that could guarantee fair minimum incomes for food delivery personnel in India’s booming app-based food ordering industry.

The algorithmic solution was presented at an international conference in 2022 and aims to address concerns over the gig-economy jobs in meal delivery lacking wage protections or benefits.

Income Protection for Precarious Work

Companies like Zomato and Swiggy have rapidly scaled up India’s food delivery sector, letting customers order from thousands of restaurants at the tap of a smartphone.

But the delivery partners who make this convenient commerce possible by crisscrossing cities on scooters often struggle to earn decent livelihoods from the ad hoc work.

The IIT Delhi team seeks to change that dynamic. Their Work4Food system utilizes optimization algorithms and demand forecasting to ensure every delivery agent meets localized minimum income thresholds based on number of orders assigned.

Optimizing Platform Operations

The new model also lets platforms maximize efficiency and reduce overstaffing costs during slow periods.

By studying historical order data, platforms can make dynamic worker scheduling decisions that better match projected demand across different times and locations.

This means having enough delivery personnel to satisfy customer needs without undue downtime between orders that hurts wages. Smoother workflows also curb pollution from roaming vehicles.

First Steps Toward Fairness

A minimum income guarantee supplemented by flexible worker allotment represents an important step toward protecting precarious gig jobs in one of India’s fastest growing industries.

And by seemingly reconciling platform and worker interests that often seem diametrically opposed, Work4Food demonstrates how smart algorithms and demand science can create shared value.

The researchers argue that devising innovative tech-based solutions is key to overcoming claims that minimum wage rules cannot apply to the flexible labor that powers the app economy.

If adopted, Work4Food has the potential to significantly impact millions of delivery workers across India’s cities, serving as a template for the wider gig economy.



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