The rise of the digital gig economy

The rise of digital gig economy

Digital disruption and transformation over the past decade has given a strong push to the rise of the gig economy worldwide. Work from home culture has indeed given this push another hit forward making gig profiles some of the most sought after today by many categories of professionals who enjoy a fluid and independent work culture.

The gig economy is a strong force to reckon with when it comes to shaping the future of work. It does not have the traditional employer-employee relationship, thus the gig workers are not obligated to any particular firm/employer, offering them greater flexibility. Businesses also gain from the gig economy by avoiding the cost of fixed remuneration towards a task, cost of medical and social security expenses for full time employees. Where the gig economy has gained the praise, it has also generated equal amounts of cons and debates on its ground reality and workings.

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What is the gig economy?
The World Economic Forum has defined Gig Economy by the focus it has on workforce participation and income generation via ‘gigs’ i.e. solo jobs, projects or tasks for which a worker ( skilled or unskilled) is hired for. It can also be referred to as ‘crowdsourcing’ or like a ‘shared economy/ collaborative economy’, this is where individuals are able to market their skill sets (both skilled or unskilled labour market) and also sell their services via platform businesses.

Workings of a gig economy
With a number of platform-based businesses available in the market today, they help act as a bridge to facilitate between the producer/seller and the consumers. Uber is an ideal example of this where a taxi driver can easily find themselves a customer and the customer can also easily find a ride with the best offered price.

Also read: Tech trends influencing digital marketing 2022

We can classify the gig worker into the following categories:

Unskilled labour: This is the category that consists of basic chores that do not require a person to be professionally certificated. Food delivery agents, delivery agents, taxi drivers, cashiers, housekeepers/cleaning services are some examples of unskilled workers. With Uber, Ola, Zomato, Swiggy, UrbanClap and many similar applications today, a majority of unskilled workers are able to find small gigs and earn some quick cash.

Not only is it an attractive gig for the unskilled labour, it is also something taken up part time by a large number of students, people seeking extra work hours to earn quick cash and young professionals to keep their expenses running.

Skilled labour: This category consists of professional services and skills that are needed for the person to be certified or graduated in a specific field with a certain amount of experience. Within skilled labour we can further have two sub-categories:

a. Executive/ Freelancers – Who have just started their career journey to mid level executives.
These range from freelance graphic designers, code writers, web-designers/developers, software engineers, social media experts, lecturers, content managers among others. This sub layer of skilled workers work on gig projects/ tasks that last from 1 day to a few weeks or few months – based on the need of the employer, availability of the gig worker, pay range and depth of work required to be finished.

Today, there are many websites and applications that help gig workers connect with each other based on projects. One fine example of this is Upwork, Fiverr, Guru and others.

b. C-level executives – Who are highly experienced and have narrowed down their skills, talents to a niche. This sub-category is a narrow lane and while very few people are available in this, both the demand and supply for highly skilled and experienced c-level executives is growing. A fine example of this is HR professional services, another is when these skilled experts are hired as Strategic Advisor for a project launch for the brand or as their key advisor/ board member and so on.

These experts on-board a company for a specific project with a given timeline and deliver strategic advice, build a strategic framework and at times also offer mentorship to chosen talents in the company to lead the project with them.

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Pros and Cons
Like any other work opportunity, gig work also has its own pros and cons.

Pros:
Flexibility: One of the key advantages is the flexibility to work on your own time, pick your desired job and client. It even allows you to set your own rates, especially if you belong with the C-level executives expert niche. You may decide to work only 3 days a week or only 4 hours each day while still earning the same money for finishing the job.

Easy money, low to zero investment: If you pick a gig work as part of side hustle, this is one of the easiest ways to make some quick cash while you offer your expertise in a particular area, or get paid hourly/ basis delivery of items. International students across nations find this to be one of the easiest ways to keep themselves afloat for their daily expenses with almost zero investment.

Hit and trail/ Test Drive: Just like you’d like to test drive before you buy yourself a new ride, gig work offers you the opportunity to experiment with various types of job profiles before you decide to commit to one for a long term career.

Explore your passion: Gig work allows you to explore your passion. You may have a full time job or are a full time student in engineering, but if creating music is your passion, you can work on weekends or post work/ college with some upcoming start-up/ music label to understand the workings of the industry and if this will be a viable option to take up full time for you.

Work-from-home-anywhere: One of the key pros here is the opportunity to work from anywhere. This became really important throughout pandemic and lockdowns when there was a sharp rise in gig work. Helps you further save money on travel to and from the office as well as time.

Also read: Impact of digital media on creator’s economy

Cons
No medical/social/other benefits: Unlike a regular employee, gig workers do not get medical insurance or other social benefits of a full time employee. Gig workers are paid to deliver within a deadline and do not get paid if the work is not finished in due time.

Inconsistent work/income: While there sure is flexibility in terms of time, location and clients, there is no guarantee of gig work to any worker. Payment comes in from project/ task one does and gig workers do not have much control over how many tasks they will be able to get in a month and at what consistency rate. They may have busy weeks and some with almost no work where they also make no money.

Burnout/Fatigue: Unskilled to skilled, if one takes on too much work to earn a specific amount for their expenses, there is bound to be work related fatigue. Some work may involve a more hands-on approach while some may involve more boardroom meetings to software related work, each has its own way of catching up with the human body.

Lack of peer-to-peer communication: One key con of gig work is lack of peers or a feeling of not belonging. If a gig worker’s daily routine is with a new person each day, like taxi drivers, or designer freelancing only has long distance calls for work, they may feel a sense of loneliness and lack of communication/ real human interactions.

Major industries today hiring gig workers are:
– Computer and IT
– Content ( Writing, editing, copywriter, scriptwriter etc)
– Finance, accounting and audit
– Administrative
– Education and training ( Part-time professor, coach, tutor etc) – amongst others.

With metaverse on the rise and digital disruption part of our everyday lives, the global forces will continue to push the rise of gig work making the gig economy more relevant. Gig workforce today is an essential component organizations need to consider in their HR strategy to succeed.

Read more: The metaverse, Web 3.0 and the new digital economy

Hetic is at the forefront of helping you gain all skills necessary for the gig economy. The pedagogy involves adopting these trends in the curriculum, introducing live workshops for hands-on learning and industry powered masterclasses that help enable a student with skills vital to excel in our dynamic world.

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