A Rapidly Changing World
Today, we see a myriad of shifts in society’s dynamics. From the adoption of a progressive mindset against once-controversial issues to the advent of unprecedented technology that has now provided us with much-coveted convenience, society has met a 180-degree flip.
Likewise, we have responded innovatively towards many issues, including the way we work. Notice the Grab deliverymen and drivers around? The influencers ubiquitously promoting certain products?
Here it comes: The rise and rise of the Gig Economy.
What Is the Gig Economy?
The gig economy refers to the labour market of us leveraging off online platforms to find ephemeral stints that can earn us some side cash. You can obviously tell why it is enticing by now – you can earn some EXTRA cash.
Though gigs do not promise a stable and constant flow of income, the freedom it provides is also attractive. Moreover, it provides diverse work opportunities, compared to doing the same, repetitive jobs in a production line. This surely adds independence and flexibility and more variety to one’s life, with the potential to increase your earning potential with more gigs.
Why We Are Already in A Gig Economy
Take for example Gojek, which uses this free market system. Delivery riders only get jobs when you order food via your devices. Their jobs are temporary, with each job lasting merely 20 minutes. Then, they get new orders and new jobs again, and they are paid each time upon completing an order.
Do you see where you step in? By ordering your meals. This gives them a job to sustain themselves whilst in the gig economy. Through this, you are a consumer of the market when you see that tantalising meal delivered to your doorstep.
Unexpectedly, even office workers are also part of the gig economy!
Many times, companies will have to take on projects as their sources of income. Often, projects are temporary, lasting from a few weeks to a few years. Though seemingly long, it still isn’t a repetitive task.
In the creative industry, let’s say a client comes to you to help him market his product. You create a marketing campaign, and after the marketing period is over, you get paid. Then this cycle repeats with different clients and different products. Let’s stop and think. Are the client and the company the consumers and the suppliers of the gig economy respectively?
However, this group of people has been largely unrecognised by many to be a part of the gig economy.
The Gig Economy in Asia
In regions like Asia and Africa, where many countries are still striving to reach a first-world country status, we see an increasing number of people drawn to the gig economy. This is largely due to the ease of getting quick cash from gigs.
Singapore – A First World Country
The workers who are part of the gig economy are considered to have an ambiguous employment status. Though they are self-employed and operate like independent contractors, they have yet to be officially classified by the government.
Singapore’s general perception of the gig economy refers to those who are freelancers, platform workers or ‘those who are not sitting in the office’.
China – A Second World Country
In China, gig-economy workers have an equivocal employment status. It can be said that they are also self-employed, independent contractors, but China has also not fully classified them as part of the workforce. Employees of companies who deal with projects as their main sources of income are a subset of the gig economy. Yet, China has ignored them.
Indonesia – A Third World Country
In Indonesia, gig-economy workers can be regarded as independent contractors. Many factors would have to determine their employment status still though, such as the number of hours they work, etc. Hence, workers in the gig economy are classified into society on a case-by-case basis.
Indonesia also has a limited scope to who they see as gig-economy workers. They have failed to recognise, like many other Asian countries, that even employees working on projects are part of the gig economy.
Why The Gig Economy Is Booming in Asia
Asia, with its fast growing economies and large populations, provides a ready supply of workers to the gig economy. For these workers, joining the gig economy is a viable method to earn money that they need urgently. Such stints like delivering food offer the advantage of quicker earnings, compared to an office job where a salary is paid at the end of every month.
In addition, in the third world countries of Asia, many lack education opportunities that can yield them high-paying jobs. The difficulty of finding these jobs due to the lack of academic qualifications makes them fall back onto the gig economy to make a living.
Moreover, companies like Grab, which endorse the gig economy can provide their workers benefits like other office jobs. This attracts people to join companies who are major players in the gig economy to be able to enjoy benefits similarly enjoyed by those working in an office.
Challenges of the Booming Gig Economy
With the lack of protection and rights for gig-economy workers, many workers’ lives are at risk. As most such workers have some form of physical labour involved in their work, the danger is patent. Yet, they are still not given protection. This sparks discontent among many in countries who have yet to make a statement on the gig economy.
Strikes and protests which follow have been observed by the workers of the gig economy as they fight for their rights for improved welfare. As many countries have yet to recognise them as official employees, the workers have little to no welfare.
Let us open our minds and realise that the gig economy has already taken over the world. Many of us have also unknowingly embraced such a model of business.
It is only when we choose to better include the gig-economy workers and see their gigs as real jobs with a legit income source, will we see the gig economy in Asia take off.