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The rise of the gig economy

INTEGRITY BEAT - Henry Schumacker (The Freeman) - January 22, 2021 - 12:00am

The COVID-19 pandemic has set free countless workers, but a good number of them have switched to become ‘giggers’, offering their services on a short-term, task-based, contractual freelancer basis.

The evolution of technology, business models, and types of jobs, among others, have led to changes in the nature of work and one of the most notable developments is the rise of the “gig economy” and gig economy workers.

Gig economy workers can work anywhere regardless of geographical distance, allowing more flexibility and convenience. On the side of employers, the convenience seems to be beneficial: not having to provide office space and corporate benefits (in the case of short-term contracts), and having access to a larger pool of talent not just from those who live near the workplace but from anywhere in the world.

Fundamentally, the sophistication of digital connectivity, ease of outsourcing, reduction of costs, and the burgeoning appeal of flexible work — and multiplicity of it — to the younger generation can be attributed to the growth of the gig economy.

The estimated size of the gig economy in 2013 was USD2 billion (Heeks, 2020). As of 2018, it was projected to have ballooned to USD 204 billion, and is anticipated to continue to pose double-digit growth in the coming years. (“The Global Gig Economy”, 2015). The World Bank (2019) estimated that around 0.3-0.5% of workers around the world are gig economy workers.

The gig economy shows a promise of the significant job-creating potential it can bring. The flexibility that new technology allows for the gig economy to thrive has helped in creating jobs and providing skills for many workers, especially in developing countries. The Philippines is also one of the developing countries that has largely benefitted from the rise of the gig economy. It recently placed sixth in the world as the fastest-growing market for the gig industry.

Estimates from the Creative Economy Council of the Philippines (2019) suggests that within the creative industries alone, around 1.8 million Filipinos are creative freelancers, engaged within press and literature, advertising, music, theatre, film, television, radio, software, visual and graphic arts, architecture, apparel, textiles, jewelry, and other crafts, among others.

To further take advantage of this rising sector, more Filipinos should be equipped with the proper digital and transversal skills the future of work will demand.

According to a study by Mwakatumbula & Moshi (2020), a gig economy worker needs six essential skills to thrive within the sector:

1. Technical skill - ability to use and navigate applications

2. Ability to manage information - many gig economy workers have access and handle information which can be sensitive. One must be able to make informed decisions or use it well.

3. Online Communication - communicating with clients (in person or especially remote clients) with clarity

4. Critical thinking and problem solving - the ability to use ICT and make informed judgements and choices

5. Online safety - Gig economy workers must have the skills to guarantee the security of information.

6. E-payment and banking knowledge - ability to manage and monitor online or digital transactions

As discussed earlier, these skills are a mix of both cross-sectoral digital skills as well as transversal or soft skills. This new model of employment highlights how education and employment evolve during Fourth Industrial Revolution. Hence, preparing and training the labor force towards such will open up many opportunities for them to participate and take full advantage of the benefits the future of work will bring.

Advantages notwithstanding, the gig economy also has its caveats. The accelerated technological developments of the Fourth Industrial Revolution will eventually lead to further evolution of gig

If you need further information or assistance, contact me at hjschumacher59@gmail.com

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