The last decade has seen a major shift in the employment scenario of our country, as an increasing number of people are eagerly quitting their jobs to work independently. Startups are popping up everywhere, more people are willing to take up freelance work and short term contacts jobs; the rise in the gig economy holds the flag of being the surefire facilitator for this situation. Experts agree that the future of work is flexible as the independent workforce keeps growing. This rise in the gig economy has attracted people from all strata of life like bees to honey – right from your house help, to the delivery boy who brings your online shopping or food orders, to your cab driver, or your website developer, social media marketing professional or the on-demand handyman, all comprise of the independent workforce.
The advancement in technology and newer business models that make use of an application software, have helped make this evolution a smooth sailing one. In more ways than perceivable, a power shift is well underway, shifting back from the organization to the individual (in this case the agile workforce). This power shift has come with the belief that open talent and independent workforce will be the drivers of the freelancer economy in the near future.
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The employer-employee relationship dynamics are fast changing. Increasing demand for various platforms that will enable quicker, efficient reciprocation between employment givers and freelancers, have led to more startups providing various types of tools, products and services. The likes of Frapp, Upwork, and FlexingIt are online platforms where companies and employers can connect with the open talent workforce or independent workforce for short term contract jobs, projects and other freelance work.
The gig economy is fast and has already matured to a point where sophisticated white-collar jobs are getting gigged too. If not the entire occupation, at least parts of the job are now switched to a more temporary/freelance lane. Workers with varying skill levels are reaping the benefits of such platforms that support and uplift the gig economy. For instance, app-based drivers, or students looking to make some extra pocket money who might not necessarily have a wide ranging skill set, can simply use a mobile application to land a job in the freelancer economy.
The benefits of freelancing are like a pendulum, swinging both ways to the convenience of the employer and employee. Companies save on costs by hiring temporary gig workers, and individuals are not tied down by long-term, monotonous work. Moreover, the gig workers have a bargaining power with their employees, to suit their needs depending on the type of job and the hours they clock therein.
Although it might sound like a win-win, the gig economy has its limitations. Companies working with freelancers, face difficulty in finding reliable talent, plus the fact that the independent worker is not trained by their in-house professionnel can cause miscommunication, discrepancies and clashes. Finding the right talent is more challenging in the gig economy because of it’s working dynamics that skip the critical aspects of talent acquisition. Employers must also keep themselves educated about legal regulations regarding contract-based alliances.
Alternatively, gig workers despite the freedom to choose the type of work they want to do and at what price, have to be constantly on the hunt for ‘new gigs’ as there is no permanency. Add to that the lack of employee benefits like insurance covers, increments, pay rises or profit sharing etc. These can add extra stress to the average gig worker looking to form a retirement plan. Independent workers also need to buy their own personal equipment and digital gear. Probably the biggest drawbacks of being in the gig economy are isolation, social insecurity and not being able to scale or in other words, lack of growth.
However, despite these risks and challenges, the gig economy in India continues to grow. Could it be attributed to sheer job satisfaction, or the joy of side-hustling or to the excitement of freelance work? Time will tell…
“Opinion | The shift from jobs to ‘work’ in the gig economy,” R Srinivasan, 06 July 2019