Gig economy on the rise as conventional jobs grow routine

It makes way for a less stressful environment due to its flexibility that turns workers into their own bosses

by NUR HAZIQAH A MALEK/ pic by MUHD AMIN NAHARUL

THE rise of the gig economy, or freelance jobs, in Malaysia as a result of technological disruptions from firms such as Grab and Foodpanda could no longer be ignored in the national economy.

Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman’s recent endorsement on Gojek and Dego Rides highlights the growing importance of the gig economy, as it allows the younger generation to generate more income.

Monster.com Asia Pacific and Middle East chief marketing officer Anshul Punhani said the reason behind the growth is conventional jobs growing more routine and stressful.

“The gig economy has seen a rise, which is where individuals can be independent and work with organisations on a project basis.

“This includes professionals working on a part-time basis on projects, consultants, freelancers or contractual employees,” he told The Malaysian Reserve.

He said the reason why the gig economy makes way for a less stressful environment is due to its flexibility that turns workers into their own bosses.

“This gives them an opportunity to sometimes work with multiple organisations and explore multiple opportunities at the same time.

“The growth in the gig economy can be attributed to multiple reasons, especially the rising number of Gen Z employees, whereby multiple studies have pointed out that Gen Z expect more freedom at their workplace and are more inclined to gig opportunities,” he said.

Based on World Bank’s data, about 26% of the country’s workers are freelancers and the number is expected to grow in the future.

This also posed a question on the workers’ financial safety net in the future, with experts saying that authorities should regulate the gig economy soon.

According to a report from Upwork, nearly half or 46% of Gen Z workers are freelancers, which is projected to only grow in the next five years in the US.

While the numbers are not local, Malaysia as a developing country is set to follow the trend, according to Favser.com, a local digital talents- focused hiring platform.

Freelancing has been on the rise since 2017 when it grew by 31%, a growth figure that surpassed the conventional workforce, according to the Employees Provident Fund.

INTI International University and Colleges also commissioned its first survey on 300 fulltime freelancers and 68% of the respondents chose a gig job as their first career choice, due to having control over working hours, diverse work experience and flexibility to choose jobs or projects.

Similarly, working on a project-by-project basis allows majority of workers who are facing cultural issues at workplaces to have their freedom.

Punhani said the gig economy will also take the centre stage in career prospects, but it is also cushioned by traditional organisations and cannot stand on its own.

“There needs to be a balance, and furthermore, we should not look at this as an either-or situation.

“We should rather try and strike a balance to ensure healthy peers who are happy and have a good work-life balance,” he said.

In February, a forum entitled “The Gig Economy — Disruptive Innovation or Opportunity for Exploitation” was curated by University of Malaya’s Industry and Community Engagements’ office.

One of the forum’s panellists, Sorga Ventures Sdn Bhd co-founder and director Shareen Shariza Abdul Ghani said the trend is moving towards the gig economy simply due to the increase in tools and accessibility.

She was also reported as saying that in the next five years, 40% of a company’s workforce will be coming from contingent workers while stating that the trend does not only involve the younger generation in the workforce.

Also at the forum, European Union-Malaysia Chamber of Commerce and Industry CEO Roberto Benetello said, however, the flexibility associated with the gig economy leads to long, irregular and anti-social working hours.

He said the legal framework in terms of social security, insurance and contracts are really important, which needs to be developed in Malaysia.

Compared to traditional education and career system, the gig economy requires competency in specific skill sets more than the general education requirements.