Everyone wants freedom, flexibility, work-life balance, control and loves to be his own boss. A job that provides all of these is labelled as a ‘dream job’. In a digitalised world that is rapidly changing the work environment, more and more people, globally, are opting for ‘gigs’, which are one-time, short-term assignments or projects. Skilled labour is the very foundation on which our economy rests. The same holds true for the freelance market. How does it work? A ‘gig economy’ is a temporary condition in which flexible jobs become a routine as companies tend to hire independent contractors and freelancers instead of hiring full-time permanent employees. Gig economy weakens the traditional market of full-time workers who earn their bread and butter from permanent and full-time employment, in which they don’t often change jobs and instead focus on a lifetime career. In some progressive countries the trend of gig economy is prevalent, and many other countries are opting for it. An in-depth study has predicted that, by 2020, 40% of American workers would be independent contractors. Even in India we are seeing the trend of more and more people choosing to work independently. Many people are taking up consultancies, small project managements, freelance writing, coding & programming, graphic designing, photographing, tutoring, supplying food to offices and homes, driving cars, etc. Some of them have been laid off by corporates, and others are unable to get visas to work in foreign countries.
Spurts entrepreneurship: India needs billions of jobs, and these can only be produced by self-employment, for which the gig economy is excellent. We are living in a digital age. Majority of the workforce uses mobile phones; they can be contacted from anywhere, therefore job and location can be linked easily. Freelancers can select among many temporary job offers and projects around the world, and employers can select the best individuals for specific projects from a larger pool that is available in any given area. Digitalisation has also contributed directly to employment as software replaces a lot of manual work and this consumes less time and has lesser errors. Many manual clerical jobs can be done sitting at home. Gig economy helps business firms reduce financial pressures that lead to retrenchment of staff.
Organisations save heavily by hiring contract labour and freelancers; a lot of saving is achieved on account of high-priced office space, staff welfare, training & development, electricity, water, etc. Also, organisations are at liberty to hire the ‘best’ talent in the market who might be difficult to maintain on payrolls because of their cost and other demands. Even from the perspective of employees, gig economy helps in balancing work-life. The model of gig economy is a win-win for both workers and organisations. It helps both select the best job and best worker without attaching any strings. Both can pick up any temporary gigs they can.
Another force leading to gig economy is millennial generation’s entrance in the job market who tend to change jobs often. The gig economy is a solution to this also.
Shifting culture: The gig economy is part of a shifting cultural and business environment that also includes the sharing economy, which is an economic system in which assets or services are shared between private individuals, either free or for a fee, typically by means of the internet. Gig economies can also shift into gift economy, which is a mode of exchange where valuables are not traded or sold, but rather given without an explicit agreement for immediate or future rewards. This disseminates into a barter economy or a market economy, where goods and services are primarily exchanged for value received.
Indian labour market is seeing a shift towards gig economy, with an increasing number of workers seeking contractual or freelancing opportunities, and services sector is embracing it at the fastest pace, says a report. Employees are increasingly willing to sacrifice the additional benefits that come with a permanent job, such as gratuity or health insurance, in swap over for a greater amount of flexibility. According to some global job sites, recruiters too prefer their remote work programmes. Sectors such as media, real estate, legal, hospitality, technology-help, management, medicine, allied and education are already operating in gig culture.
Uber is synonymous with gig economy: If there is one company that is synonymous with the gig economy, it is Uber. It lets you use your personal vehicle to start earning money through its Uber Partner app. It’s a flexible platform that allows you to choose when and where you drive and set your own schedule. Uber has a generous referral programme for bringing in new drivers and customers. It has entered many nations and has given spurt to other cab companies such as Ola, TabCab, CityCab, Priyadarshini Taxi Service, etc. There are many other e-platforms such as ServiceSutra, UrbanClap, OnCall, Timesaverz and Quikr, which send workforce to the destination where they are required. Carpenters, plumbers, electricians, housemaids, gardeners, cleaners, beauticians, healers, physiotherapists … you name it and these e-service providers send you the required workforce. These e-companies partner with workers who complete their work and leave with their fees. From being just another handyman, gardener, carpenter, electrician or beautician, these workers have become individual brands, marketing their skills and talent. They get recognised by hirers. The gig economy is here to stay.
Management think and blogger