There is no doubt the buzz around the gig economy is real and on the rise. In fact, it is estimated that by 2027, the majority of the workers in the US will be contract workers, according to Upwork and the Freelancers Union. Late last year, it was reported that at Google, contract workers outnumbered direct employees for the first time in the company’s 20-year history.

But is it for everyone?

Despite its growing popularity, the gig economy is more suited to some industries and jobs than others. Right on top of the list is the high tech industry.

In an industry that is as fast-moving as the tech industry is, it is no wonder that the biggest challenge companies face is access to skills.

"As skills become more specialised, companies either need to invest in reskilling to prepare workers for the jobs of tomorrow or leverage freelance professionals who are nearly twice as likely as traditional employees to proactively take reskilling upon themselves," Stephane Kasriel, CEO of Upwork and co-chair of the World Economic Forum's Council on the Future of Gender, Education and Work, said in a press release.

Upwork released a Skills Index in 2018 and noted that demand for the top 10 skills grew more than 400 percent compared to the same time last year. And because demand for these skills has shot through the roof, it is therefore not surprising that the top paying gig jobs are mostly in IT.

The top 10 freelance skills

  1. Blockchain
  2. Tensorflow
  3. Amazon DynamoDB
  4. Voice over
  5. Subtitling
  6. Art Direction
  7. Content Strategy
  8. Computer Vision
  9. Microsoft Power BI (Business Analytics)
  10. Augmented Reality

Not just high tech, however

FlexJobs, based on an analysis of over 49,000 companies and its own database, compiled this top 10 list of freelance careers.

  1. 1. Computer & IT
  2. Accounting & Finance
  3. HR & Recruiting
  4. Editing, Proofreading, and Writing
  5. Administrative
  6. Project Management
  7. Data Entry
  8. Research Analysis
  9. Software Development
  10. Technical Support

In Singapore, a lot of contracting jobs are for IT developers, especially in the banking sector, said Aarti Budhrani, Associate Director for PageGroup contracting. 

“With startup companies and online stores becoming more prevalent in Singapore, developers are in high demand and many are on short term contracts of between three to six months,” said Aarti.

Managing the new workforce

To manage this evolving workforce, Aarti advises the organisation of these pointers:

1. Consider a minimum term of 3 months
A three-month term is probably the minimum contract period you would want to consider. For all the administrative tasks that are involved in onboarding contractors, you probably don’t want to have a contract that is shorter than three months. The industry standard, she said, is between six months to a year although at Michael Page, three-month contracts are possible.

2.  Strengthen your backend team
From interviewing contractors to orientating them once you’ve taken them onboard, the administrative tasks can be significant. Aarti advises organisations make sure their administration teams are strengthened and ready to take on these tasks of managing a transient workforce.

3. Be aware of regulatory framework
Companies who are taking on contract workers need to be fully aware of the country’s regulations on transient labour. For instance, what are you are obliged to provide to contract workers with regards to insurance and other work benefits? In Singapore, said Aarti, the country’s ministry of manpower regulates this sector of the workforce quite stringently, cutting out any grey areas and doubts, or potential labour disputes with contract workers.

4. Education is a process
Companies must be prepared to go through the process of education about this new gig economy – its upsides and downsides, learning how to manage it, within the organisation and even outside of it: “Although it is picking up in this part of the world, contracting is still not as accepted as it is in Australia or Europe – so there is still a lot of education to be done,” said Aarti. 

The face of the future workforce

Even just another year down this road, the complexion of the global economy could look very different still. The number of contract workers is definitely growing, and the average tenure of full-time workers is falling considerably. While contracting may currently be more pronounced in some industries and not others, bets are on contracting becoming more prevalent across industries and across regions of the world.

Even governments are getting into the game. Beeline, which defines itself as the “world’s largest independent provider of solutions for sourcing and managing the complex world of contingent labour”, recently announced a contract win from the New South Wales government in Australia. Under the contract, Beeline is expected to “deliver an end-to-end solution covering contingent workers and statement of work (SOW) based services, along with volunteer placements.”

“Permanent employment — there’s no such thing anymore. The line will get blurrier and blurrier,” noted Beeline’s senior vice president Brian Hoffmeyer.

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