Is gig economy the future of work?

Rapid digitalization, hybrid working models, a thriving startup ecosystem, and an evolving talent landscape- all spurred by the Covid-19 pandemic, have disrupted the labour market. The world of work is witnessing a paradigm shift in its workforce, workplace, and work platforms. Propelled by the next-gen technology and new-age workers, the geographical boundaries of work are blurring each day. The outbreak of the global pandemic untethered work from the office and unlocked a new economy- Gig Economy.

Although in existence for a long time, the gig economy has only now expanded and attracted attention worldwide. The evolving expectations and dynamics of today’s working populace, intensifying war for talent, and globalization of work have kickstarted the gig economy. Even though India’s gig economy is at a nascent stage, ASSOCHAM expects the gig sector to surpass $455 billion by 2024 in India. As businesses and employees witness the benefits of contractual and freelance opportunities, the gig economy is set to become the future of work.

What is a Gig Economy?

A gig economy can be defined as an economic activity that brings in temporary, contractual or freelance workers to perform certain jobs or projects. It encompasses all platforms that hire independent contractors, freelancers, consultants and gig workers from different domains such as IT, digital marketing, communication, food and beverages, content creation, art and design. Accordingly, a gig economy implies the employment of temporary or part-time professionals instead of conventional employees by the organization.

First-choice for millennials and Gen Z workers

According to CMIE, around 30 million Indians aged 20-29 were reported to be unemployed in 2021. The Covid-19 pandemic compelled the burgeoning millennial and Gen Z workforce to rethink their career paths, work schedules, and workplace preferences. Considering the flexibility the gig economy offers along with competitive payouts, a variety of projects, and autonomy, it has become the first choice for the young working populace. Looking to break away from the hustle and grind of office culture, the gig economy offers the millennial workforce to enter into contracts with leading organizations across the globe, work on projects they like best and accommodate a healthy work-life balance.

A springboard for businesses during the pandemic

As the pandemic hit the globe, organizations pivoted almost overnight to remote working models, resulting in delayed projects, lost clients and customers, and mounting losses. At a time like this, many businesses, MNCs, and startups alike have moved to freelancers and contractual and gig workers for various technical and non-technical projects. This framework enables organizations to reduce operational, administrative, and employee costs. Additionally, by contracting projects to skilled professionals, organizations can maximize their expertise and productivity without having to bear the costs of permanent employees such as annual salary, training, and development, etc.

The advent of startup culture in India

The startup ecosystem in India has been moving on an exponential growth trajectory for the last few years. With the third-largest startup ecosystem in the world, India has registered over 14,000 startups in the previous six years. Accustomed to breaking conventions, Indian startups have been innovating with their workforce and working models. Instead of incurring substantial fixed costs by hiring full-time employees, startups are choosing to leverage the expertise offered by freelance and gig workers at reduced costs. Consequently, startups with limited funding and resources are able to outsource projects to domain experts and bolster their technology platforms.

Technology- a key enabler

Contrary to the popular belief that technology has disrupted businesses and jobs, technology has instead created a slew of new jobs and optimized several business processes. Consequently, companies are experiencing a ubiquitous and rampant demand for tech talent. Furthermore, the global pandemic has stirred a demand for rapid digitalization across all industries. Given the perennial tech talent crunch, many organizations are contracting tech projects to freelance and gig workers to accelerate their technological transformation. Technological empowerment has also enabled many skilled professionals to enter the gig economy instead of being anchored to the conventional job market.

Rise of online freelancing platforms

In recent years, the number of online freelancing platforms and marketplaces has multiplied worldwide. In India, freelancing platforms have grown from just 80 in 2009 to 330 in 2021. Platforms such as UniGigs and Upwork have created a mutually-beneficial ecosystem where freelancers and gig workers, as well as large and small companies, can connect with each other. Such online platforms are ushering in the future of work where professional relationships are symbiotic and allow both companies and workers equal freedom and flexibility. The evolving landscape of work is changing business models and empowering the workforce towards self-employment, catalyzing a larger gig economy.

The Road Ahead

With roaring technological transformations, the constantly evolving nature of work and the global pandemic, the gig economy is on the rise and expected to at least double the pre-pandemic levels. With an expected influx of gig workers and freelancers to enter the gig economy, the gig economy is being touted as the new working-class norm. Steered by technological empowerment and underpinned by government policies and initiatives, the gig economy can revolutionize the world of work as we know it.



Views expressed above are the author’s own.


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