Not so long ago, think around the mid-2000s, the only people who looked for “gigs” were artists. For many of us, once we outgrew our school dreams of becoming a celebrity, we found “real” jobs that paid us a fixed salary every month. Working eight to five for a company bears little resemblance to the way a considerable share of the workforce makes a living today.
Due to unemployment millions of people are looking for various income streams and work independently, rather than in organized payroll jobs. This is hardly a new occurrence, yet it has never been well measured in official statistics and the resulting data gaps prevent a clear view of a large share of labour-market activity.
But just how that shift will reshape the next generation of work is much more difficult to forecast, partly because it’s so hard to generalize about what roles freelancers will play in companies of different sizes all around the world.
Millions of Zimbabweans are employed under a system known as the “gig economy”. But what exactly is the gig economy, and why is it controversial? Here’s what you need to know…
What is the gig economy?
In a gig economy, temporary, flexible jobs are commonplace and companies tend towards hiring independent contractors and freelancers instead of full-time employees. A gig economy undermines the traditional economy of full-time workers who rarely change positions and instead focus on a lifetime career.
Zimbabwe is well on its way to establishing a gig economy, and it is estimated that as much as a 25% of the working population is already working in some kind of gig capacity. This number is only projected to rise. In the modern digital world, it’s becoming progressively common for people to work remotely or from home. This facilitates independent contracting work, as many of those jobs don’t require the freelancer to come in to the office to work. Companies also have a wider range of applicants to choose from, as they don’t necessarily have to choose to hire someone based on their vicinity. Furthermore, computers have developed to the point that they can take the place of the jobs people previously held.
The fast growth in the gig economy suggests that this is the future of work, raising the question of whether a lack of job security, lower pay and fewer benefits is the future we want?
Meanwhile, the minimum wage for example of web-design range from $30-$300 per site. For other services like graphic design, it’s from $5-$20 for logos. Freelancers divide their time among a portfolio of clients, spreading out the costs of doing business with each one.
While there are many reasons for the rise of Freelancers throughout in Zimbabwe, there’s a definite trend under way. Technology is transforming the way we connect, communicate, and relate to the world. Yet one thing that’s remained true of workers irrespective of geography is that all want to survive and succeed. As technology penetrates more corners of the country than ever before, that basic desire is growing more complex.