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The Myth About Gig Workers

EL-2023.12
ByElsie Low
on

I have not written for a while since the launch of ChatGPT. Excuses aside, in fact, I was busy completing my project for my client. Anyway, I am back to continue my series on Digital Transformation and Gig Economy.

Honestly, since the inception of ChatGPT, I was a bit skeptical of continuing writing but I must try that tool. My affiliate send me the link to use, I am impressed! The tool has been so useful for consulting and coaching. It eases my work with quick access to information and also prompts me with a lot of ideas.

I am not the only one that is impressed. I heard it helps more content writers to produce more quality work. Furthermore, it is a good tool to complement gig workers in their course of work.

Wait a minute, why am I writing about ChatGPT for this topic? Ain’t people referencing gig workers to low-skilled workers? Someone recently asked me what exactly Gig Economy is. Although the person who asked me the question understood the original context of gig workers, however, she was challenged as people kept relating it to e-hailing or food delivery. She is not alone. This further confused many people on the street. I came across one of our Malaysian institutions that defined the Gig Economy as the provision of services through a digital platform and reference them again to the food delivery and e-hailing work.

They are not wrong about having gig services through digital platforms but I begged to differ. It’s still a myth that gig work is exclusively for low-skilled workers. Many people still associate gig work with low-skilled or entry-level work, but today, the gig economy has evolved and expanded to encompass a wide range of skills and professions.

But how do we explain to people on the street? I took the opportunity to ask ChatGPT.

I asked the Bot

  • Defined Gig Economy? The Gig Economy refers to a labor market where short-term contracts or freelance work are more common than traditional permanent jobs. In the Gig Economy, workers take on individual projects or gigs rather than working for a single employer on a long-term basis. This type of work is often facilitated through digital platforms or apps, which connect workers with customers or clients seeking specific services. Thereafter, ChatGPT gave examples such as ridesharing, food delivery, online freelance work, and more.
  • Defined Gig Economy vs Gig Workers? The Gig Economy refers to a broader labor market that is characterized by short-term contracts or freelance work, often facilitated by digital platforms or apps. Gig Workers, on the other hand, are individuals who participate in this type of work. They typically work independently, taking on individual projects or “gigs” for multiple clients or platforms, rather than working for a single employer in the long term. Gig workers can include a variety of professions, such as drivers, delivery workers, freelancers, and other types of independent contractors. The gig economy relies on the availability and participation of gig workers to provide services to customers or clients.

So, are we satisfied with the above responses? Well, since the above is an AI chatbot, let me understand from the experts.

I check other Institutions

Here’s the extract from,

  • McKinsey relates it as “independent workers who perform different types of jobs. It can be short-term placement through a temporary agency, driving passengers, food delivery, tutoring other products, short-term renting personal property, creative jobs such as acting or writing, and substitute teaching”.
  • Extract from Work Economic Forum’s publication, “if you’ve ever used an app to call a freelance taxi driver, book a holiday rental, order food, or buy a homemade craft then you’ve probably participated in this segment of the economy”. They further explained, “The Gig Economy involves the exchange of labor for money between individuals or companies via digital platforms that actively facilitate matching between providers and customers, on a short-term and payment-by-task basis”. 

Not enough? I, therefore, look at the renowned free marketplace platform providers. These providers seem to have many other professions listed on their platforms. Let’s explore how they profile themselves;

  • Upwork is one of the world’s largest freelancing marketplace platforms and their “mission is to create an economic opportunity so that people have better lives and become the world’s work marketplace where everyday businesses of all sizes and independent talent from around the globe to meet and accomplish incredible things”. On their site, they connect customers with knowledgeable gig workers such as designers, videographers, IT developers, marketers, writers, or even translators, and many more.
  • Similarly, other platforms like Freelancer.com, they too connect skills such as programmers, website builders, marketers, and even financial analysts and many more.

My laymen’s understanding

While the above explained logically but, why do people still refer gig workers to e-hailing or food delivery? I heard this for a long while and as a consultant and coach helping companies to start a gig platform, I need to simplify it to make people understand and hope to change their perception of Gig Workers. Perhaps, let’s get to the fundamentals again.

  • What is the purpose of the Gig Economy? We need to recognize that the global economic landscape is changing rapidly. Many businesses today strive to stay competitive as their labor cost can be as high as 60% to 70% of their total business costs. Hence, they need to find ways to be cost-effective in their business operations.
  • What do businesses want to achieve from Gig Economy? Businesses are mature nowadays, they know that Gig Economy is a viable solution to scale their workforce based on demand, minimize overheads, and assess different skills which contribute to cost savings. Some use it to innovate their business model. Whereas, some use it to procure niche skills on a demand basis.
  • How are they connected? Many businesses already started using the available free marketplace platforms to procure gig workers to render their services. While they know where and how to use the platform to procure Gig Workers, but many people may not understand that different types of gig platforms cater for different gig work engagements.

The most common platform in the marketplace today is the e-hailing, or food delivery platforms. These platform providers most likely own the application, have a large customer segment and they use it to create revenue streams as their business model.

Whereas the other type of platform is more a gig talent procurement platform that caters solely to procuring independent knowledge of Gig Workers to perform specific tasks or work.

The platforms are built to facilitate the entire gig workers’ engagement process from matching to procuring and assigning the gig worker till completion of the job and payment. Some may have additional features like assessment, or even complete with rating and feedback mechanisms.

But why do people still relate Gig Workers to low-skilled, e-hailing, and the food delivery cluster?

The Market Perception

Today, in Malaysia, there are more than 4 million gig workers in the market. A significant portion of the gig workers is predominantly from the e-hailing and the food delivery group. Many businesses today use these groups of gig workers to render on-demand services. Generally, businesses and consumers use them for transportation, delivery, packing, and housekeeping which require fast and reliable services.

As a result, the volumes say it all thus these on-demand groups of gig workers superseded the other professions. We must be aware that Gig work can cater to other professions, and they can be knowledgeable skilled professional freelancers or independent workers.

As an example, one of the prominent and established banks in Singapore launched a gig platform to engage their retired bankers, and women with caregiving duties to take up flexible, short-term, project-based work. They deem their retired employees with technical expertise as highly valued workers; hence they use this platform to assign work to these retirees for gig work.

Whether we like it or not, Gig Economy is the future of work. Gig Economy can help organizations with potential underemployment issues, anticipating the future generation’s culture, and many more. Therefore, if your organization is looking to establish or deploy a Gig Economy or platform, understand the business purposes so that you can determine what the organization needs to do to achieve the desired outcome.

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