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Demand for Gig workers to increase in 2021: Experts

Gig workers are freelance/ contractual workers who work on a flexible and temporary arrangement with companies and platforms for a specific period of time.

January 21, 2021 / 08:00 PM IST
Representative image

Representative image

Demand for skilled and semi-skilled gig workers is expected to rise further in 2021 as employers and corporates look to optimise costs in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the experts.

Gig workers are freelance/ contractual workers who work on a flexible and temporary arrangement with companies and platforms for a specific period of time.

Kaushik Banerjee, Vice President and Business Head of and said, "In 2020 we saw huge numbers of takers in gig space like ecommerce had hired three times due to the pandemic otherwise they used to hire only 50-60 percent or at the maximum at 100 percent but with the penetration into tier 2 and 3 towns and cities, it has increased."

"That apart when the stringent lockdown started, companies chose to freeze hiring or retrench or lay off people. Most of the people got in the gig way for instance the coders, software engineers were awarded gig to complete tasks. These give flexibility and are also delivered effectively," Banerjee added.

"India has now emerged as the fifth largest country in terms of gig and flexi staffing and they are only behind US, China, Brazil and Japan. So India has roughly around 3 million gig workers now and we have grown from 1 million which was very off late," said Banerjee.

Commenting on the  outlook for 2021, he said, "We expect it to grow by 2x to about 6 million and if there are some strong policy changes which happen in India, we can easily touch the 10 million mark in 2021 which would take us to the third position behind US and China. So that’s the kind of jump we are seeing in the gig workforce."

"Now in 2021, we see gig hiring opening up in many sectors. Most of the IT, ITES, digital, E Commerce will look to hire more gig workers. Also we may expect the gig workers to take up diverse gigs to maximise the earnings."

"While gig hiring is heavy in 5-6 sectors, other sectors have started opening to gig hiring as they have started realising the things that come with hiring an employee. So companies are open to gig hiring to get the work done quickly and also by somebody who is a subject matter expert and need not to worry about PF, compliances, office space etc. So the numbers are growing in every sector," Banerjee concluded. 

"In 2020, job losses across the experience level and the influx of fresh entrants (graduates) in the job market boosted the gig economy. This will promote diversity, inclusion and business pressure for cost optimisation and will give gig economy a major push in 2021," according to the 2021 Talent Technology Outlook study by job site SCIKEY published earlier this month.

"Gig economy was a relatively new concept till we were hit by COVID-19. 2020 was an experimental year for both - the employers as well as for the Gig workers. Now with the opening up of economy the landscape has changed too," said Alok Kumar, Senior Director, Manpower.

"Pre COVID, the demand of gig workers were limited to Blue collar jobs – App-based drivers, food delivery agents etc. Now, the trend is changing fast and we are witnessing sudden surge in demands for white collar jobs too. Demand for Teachers/ Educators/ Content developers etc. by EdTech platforms or requirements of consultants for specific projects are high. Interestingly, this demand is not only from start-ups but even from the traditional and established companies," he added.

"The new workforce which got added this year after their school/ college education are ready to take the plunge in this Gig Economy rather than waiting for the “Perm” opportunity. And, the employers, on the other hand, are using this pool and adding as Gig workers. In certain functions where the job roles and their outputs are well defined and quantified such as sales, lead generations etc., we are witnessing 25-30% more demands for Gig workers compared to the last year," said Alok Kumar commenting on the outlook for 2021.

Prashant Singh, Vice President and Business Head- Compliance and Payroll Outsourcing, TeamLease Services said, "The current pandemic has changed the thought process of how gig economy would look like in 2021. The nature of work , timing and expectations are now more flexible, agile and streamlined now. We foresee more short term projects, part time jobs, seasonal demands and consultancies."

"Fixed term contract , protection for gig workers under social security code and changes in labour laws would promote more gig culture in the country," Singh added.

GigIndia co-founder and CEO Sahil Sharma said, "Remote gig working grew 3x between April and December' 20. We expect 15,000 folks to get employed through us in 2021."

A report by GigIndia noted a rise in female gig workers from 12.07 percent before lockdown to 29.34 percent six months post the lockdown. Subsequently, the percent growth of gig workers from Tier 2/3/4 cities rose from 5.22 percent in March 2020 to 58.11 percent in September 2020.

Shreeja Singh
first published: Jan 21, 2021 08:00 pm