The term ‘gig economy workers’ instinctively evokes the imagery of food delivery executives, cab drivers or home services providers like plumbers, electricians and beauticians for most of us.
The popularity of large gig economy platforms like Amazon, Flipkart, Uber, Ola and Urban Company and the regular press garnered by them is a major reason for this.
In reality though, the gig workers – freelance or independent professionals who take up short duration projects from clients or companies – have always been around us. Independent lawyers, teachers, accountants, management consultants and other business or professional consultants often work on gig models.
The numbers tell us the whole story: India has over 8 million independent or gig professionals, according to a recent BCG report. The report further notes that in the short-medium term, nearly 24 million jobs in skilled, semi-skilled and shared services roles could be delivered via gigs, including nearly 3 million shared services roles. Another report by ASSOCHAM said that India has around 15 million freelance workers engaged in projects in sectors like IT, HR, and designing.
In the US, as many as 55 million people – a whopping 34% of the entire adult workforce - were classified as gig workers in 2017 by the International Labor Organization, and the total was projected to rise to 43% in 2020.
The only reason why high-end, white collar professionals have never been seen as gig economy workers in popular imagination is because there were no major tech-enabled platform to bring them gigs. Now, a new generation of platforms are actively promoting gig work among senior white collar professionals. Upwork and Fiverr are well known globally for a large pool of high quality independent professionals available for gigs; in domains like tech development, marketing, legal and finance.
In India, Gigvistas, Gig India and Flexiple offer short-term assignments or gigs in similar domains of tech, marketing and finance, among several others, while other platforms like BuyHive are dedicated for independent sourcing and procurement professionals. Together, these platforms are enabling a whole new generation of senior white collar professionals to redefine their work-life balance and earn livelihood on their terms.
The pandemic has been a key enabler of a dramatic shift in people’s attitudes towards gig work. The ‘Great Resignation’ is already a widely talked about phenomenon in the west and refers to a huge number of people quitting their 9-5 jobs in sectors as diverse as technology to hospitality as people reorient their priorities around life and livelihood.
Back in 2020, the ADP Research Institute studied a data of 8 million workers in 75,000 companies around the world and found that between 2010 and 2019, the share of gig workers in businesses increased by 15%. 70% of long-term gig workers say that it is a “choice,” and not because they are unable to find a traditional job. Further over 50% of long-term gig workers stay with the same client company for 12 months.
A recent survey by BuyHive also found similar attitudes among senior-level sourcing or procurement professionals with 89% of sourcing professionals stating that freelance sourcing can be a rewarding and long-term career option for them. Among those willing to work on freelance model with global buyers, a whopping 95% said that it is very important for them to have a better control over their work-life balance, and to have the freedom to set their work timings as compared to a regular full-time job. A similar proportion of the respondents also affirmed that short-term sourcing projects or gigs added to their professional repertoire as they enabled them to work on varied projects with different clients. This kind of platform also makes room for years of expertise, skills and networks to be put to use, which otherwise would be stale knowledge.
Also what a platform like BuyHive does is that it captures the data about Sourcing Experts, Buyers, Suppliers and Products in a formats that can they be data mined to be put to be used in multiple ways such as – Providing sourcing as a service, Manufacturing management, QA/QC, Upskilling, Trade Finance, Logistics and Recruitment platform.
Ultimately, the pandemic not only made it acceptable for white collar people to freelance or work remotely, it has also taught large employers to recognise that they can work perfectly fine with remote staff and don’t need people to work from their offices. Companies like Google, Salesforce and Facebook have gone so far as to declare that their employees are not expected to be back to work full time ever.
At the same time, tech tools have rapidly evolved to support remote working at scale, which in turn has fed into an even greater acceptance of new age working models like hybrid working. A majority of employers today recognise that having employees or independent contractors in knowledge roles work remotely, or from their homes, gives much more flexibility to all parties. In 2022 and beyond, workplace flexibility will a big differentiator for companies to hire and retain talent.
The Great Resignation and the desire to seek greater flexibility at work are also the reasons why gig platforms for white collar knowledge professionals have flourished during the pandemic. While the horizontal platforms covering multiple domains or lines of work are already widely popular – Upwork counts companies like Microsoft, Airbnb and GoDaddy among its clients – we will soon see the emergence of more vertical platforms with a single category focus similar to BuyHive.
To conclude, the gig economy is now ready for white collar professionals and vice versa. People with advanced skills don’t mind working independently and for short-duration gigs, especially when they can work remotely. They can finally put in their experience and expertise to use new age gig platforms that not only provide ample earning opportunities, but also an opportunity to work with a variety of global clients.