The ‘Gig-Economy’: Keeping people working
By Nuno Pereira
Did you wake up determined that “today is the day” you will complete that one thing you have been postponing for some time?
Spending time with family, learning a new skill, clearing your garden or scaling your business. But just then, you get a reminder that there is yet another task that you were supposed to complete today. You shrug, overwhelmed, as a voice keeps screaming in your head “I don’t have enough time!”.
Whether you are a business owner or an individual, managing a business, or your life, can be very challenging. There are moments when you lose focus due to the many distractions and trivial tasks that prevent you from doing what is important. It is said that only 20% of what we do contribute to the 80% of the results we get in the end. However, in this fast-paced world, we find ourselves doing 80% of the work and obtaining only 20% of the results we envision. You would agree with me that this can be very frustrating.
Fortunately, there is a solution to this frustration: The Gig-Economy. Defined as the job market where short-term or part-time work is done by self-employed people on temporary contracts, the gig economy has helped a number of businesses and people both offline and online. In countries, like America, the gig economy employs about 36% of the population, they work as independent contractors with online platforms such as Uber, Airbnb, Fiverr and others facilitating this transition. Giving themselves and the organisations they work for a level of flexibility and freedom that was up to now inconceivable.
The gig economy is not new in Namibia though, independent contractors have been present for a while, with the most common being building contractors. Companies, and individuals, have been delegating activities and duties that are not part of their core business to different contractors. The term contractor has become quite intimidating that many relate the term to “very expensive”; and that is when freelancers come in the picture.
Freelancers in Namibia have been known by many different names like “the go-to guy”, “handyman”, “Jack of all trades”, and many others. If one was to compare freelancers to contractor companies, you’d find that freelancers are more flexible, more independent, and have fewer overheads- making them a more affordable and efficient option. With the world undergoing massive upheavals that at present show no end in sight due to the Coronavirus, contracts, employment and whole organisations are being terminated. But, what happens when the economy starts to rebound post-COVID19? Will employment contracts be dished out, or will organisations be more cautious and hire people for ‘piece-work’…if and only when they are needed? This is what the gig economy was made for.
In Namibia, however, many freelancers are regarded as being part of the “informal sector” and are perceived to provide “not up to standard” work. Which simply isn’t the case. In 2018, the Namibian Labour Force Survey showed that 57% of the employed people in the country were in the informal sector. If more than half of the workforce is in the informal sector, does that not indicate that there is a significant amount of expertise in it? Several countries are progressively moving towards the gig economy and statistics also indicate that the future of employment is in the gig economy.
If you, as a business owner would like to hire experts for services needed only temporarily, scale quickly while reducing workforce-related costs; then the flexibility and expertise that is offered by the gig economy is perfect.
But, looking at it from the person employed in the gig economy, it gives the individual the freedom to do what they want, what they are good at within a schedule that suits them, rather than a constant 9-5 workload.
The gig-economy might just be a great solution to helping lower unemployment rates and poverty in Namibia.