According to a recent report by BCG, India has over 8 Mn independent or gig professionals
The Great Resignation and the desire for greater flexibility at work are two of the reasons why gig platforms for white-collar knowledge professionals have thrived during the pandemic
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
For most of us, the term ‘gig economy workers’ conjures up images of food delivery executives, cab drivers, or home service providers such as plumbers, electricians, and beauticians. The popularity of large gig economy platforms such as Amazon, Flipkart, Uber, Ola, and Urban Company, as well as the regular press coverage they receive, is a major reason for this.
In reality, gig workers, freelance or independent professionals who take on short-term projects from clients or companies, have always been around. Gig models are frequently used by independent lawyers, teachers, accountants, management consultants, and other business or professional consultants.
Rise Of The Gig Economy
The numbers tell us the whole story. India has over 8 Mn independent or gig professionals, according to a recent BCG report. The report further notes that in the short-medium term, nearly 24 Mn jobs in skilled, semi-skilled and shared services roles could be delivered via gigs, including nearly 3 Mn shared services roles. Another report by ASSOCHAM said that India has around 15 Mn freelance workers engaged in projects in sectors like IT, HR, and design.
In the US, as many as 55 Mn people, a whopping 34% of the entire adult workforce, were classified as gig workers in 2017 by the International Labor Organisation.
The only reason that high-end, white-collar professionals have never been viewed as gig economy workers in popular imagination is that there has never been a major tech-enabled platform to bring them gigs. A new generation of platforms is now actively promoting gig work among senior white-collar professionals. Upwork and Fiverr are well-known around the world for having a large pool of high-quality independent professionals available for gigs in fields such as technology development, marketing, legal, and finance.
In India, Gigvistas, Gig India, and Flexiple, among others, offer short-term assignments or gigs in similar domains such as tech, marketing, and finance, while other platforms such as BuyHive are dedicated to 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 the data of 8 Mn 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.
How The Gig Economy Has Changed The Way We Work
A recent BuyHive survey discovered similar attitudes among senior-level sourcing or procurement professionals, with 89% stating that freelance sourcing can be a rewarding and long-term career option for them. In comparison to a regular full-time job, 95% of those willing to work on a freelance model with global buyers said it is very important for them to have better control over their work-life balance and the freedom to set their own work hours.
A similar proportion of respondents agreed that short-term sourcing projects or gigs expanded their professional repertoire by allowing them to work on a variety of projects with a variety of clients. This type of platform also allows for the application of years of expertise, skills, and networks that would otherwise be stale knowledge.
A platform like BuyHive also captures data about sourcing experts, buyers, suppliers, and products in formats that can be data mined and used in a variety of ways. This includes sourcing as a service, manufacturing management, QA/QC, upskilling, trade finance, logistics, and recruitment platforms.
The pandemic has not only made it acceptable for white-collar people to freelance or work remotely, but 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. The majority of employers today recognise that having employees or independent contractors in knowledge roles work remotely, or from their homes, gives all parties much more flexibility. Workplace flexibility will be a key differentiator for companies looking to hire and retain talent in 2022 and beyond.
The Great Resignation and the desire for greater flexibility at work are also reasons why gig platforms for white-collar knowledge professionals have thrived during the pandemic. While horizontal platforms that cover multiple domains or lines of work are already popular. For instance, Upwork has clients such as Microsoft, Airbnb, and GoDaddy. 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 their experience and expertise to good use by utilising new-age gig platforms, which not only provide ample earning opportunities but also the opportunity to work with a diverse range of global clients.