2020 has been quite a year! We’ve had fires, floods and a global pandemic that’s yet to be brought under control. We’d be hard pressed to find someone who has not been affected one way or the other.
What we have come to realize is that many aspects of the economy, society and everyday life have changed irrevocably. There is an undeniably strong cloud of hardship, but like every cloud we do find silver linings. We believe that the events of 2020 have accelerated the shift towards the gig economy, a growing economic sector that has, until now, been largely underestimated.
The gig economy is not new. In 2020, it is already estimated to be a USD4.5-trillion industry globally – even before the pandemic struck. Think of all the freelancers and short-term contract workers that you know…they make up the gig economy and have done so for decades. This became popular when we got access to the internet, as people were able to start promoting their skill-sets and connecting with audiences. In some cases, this allowed people to turn side hustles into full-time businesses.
The defining moment that caused a sharp upturn in the gig economy came around 2008 when the global financial crisis hit. As housing markets collapsed and unemployment rates started to climb a little too quickly, things changed within the American society especially.
People started taking whatever jobs they could get, even if they were temporary. The security of being able to balance multiple clients while the employers didn’t have to worry about actually employing anyone became more appealing for everyone involved.
Then the millennial generation shifted our thinking even more; we started seeing masses of young adults who preferred to live a more flexible lifestyle of their own design — being self-employed, working on multiple projects, working in multiple activities, digital nomads and the like.
So, the gig economy has been steadily gaining popularity, both for those entering as gig-workers, and for businesses to hire freelance workers with specific skills for specific tasks. We see this trend mostly in North America and Europe, with Africa, Asia and South America lagging behind.
The significance of this geographic spread is that there is rampant unemployment and informal sector activities in developing countries of Africa, Asia and South America. There are huge numbers of skilled and talented people, needing to find better ways to monetize their skills and earn a sustainable living.
In recent months, we’ve seen a worldwide trend of millions of jobs that have been lost during the pandemic economic slump. We expect to see millions more job losses because businesses are shutting down. There simply will not be enough jobs available. Millions of people are having to rethink how to earn wages, turning to gigs as an alternative i.e. self-employment, freelancing and contract work. Even those who have been engaged in these activities will have to boost their visibility as the market becomes a more crowded space.
The danger is that we have a growing divide between those who can participate in the gig economy to build sustainable livelihoods, and those who cannot. With globalization of services, competition is steep for gig workers online.
What about those who are not online? How is it possible to get the kind of visibility needed to attract the right number of willing clients? The traditional community notice boards are just not enough. Word of mouth is just not enough.
This is a problem that has been on the mind of Alex O shunloye for some time. Originally from Nigeria, residing in the UK and Ireland for the past 20 years, Alex is well aware of the need for people to use their skills and join a global job marketplace.
“There is an abundance of talented, skilled, qualified people in developing countries. There is also a huge demand for businesses and individuals who want to buy these services. The problem is how to connect the two to each other.”
So, Alex has developed his SureJobz App – an application designed to connect Service Sellers with Service Buyers. This startup, initiative already, has shown great potential in meeting the growing needs of the market place. When asked how it is different to other platforms for hiring freelancers, Alex explains 2 important aspects:
“Firstly, SureJobz App is for both online and offline services. You can just as easily hire a digital marketer or bookkeeper as you would a dressmaker, dog walker or building site worker. We aspire to be a kind of modern day, dynamic yellow pages where a service buyer can find all service needs in 1 simple app.“
“Secondly, SureJobz App is a global job marketplace, so you can tap into talents all over the world. But where we are different is that we recognize the importance of finding service sellers near you. Some services need proximity. Some buyers wish to support their local community members, but they just don’t know who offers what they need in their neighbourhood. Our geolocation features will recommend vetted service sellers in the category you need, near you”
Alex goes on to explain that he believes SureJobz App to be a solution to so many people in the developing and developed worlds alike. The app has just been launched in the market – available in desktop and Android versions, with iOS coming soon. The app is optimized to perform well on any smart phone with limited data connection, because we want to reach users who may not have the most powerful mobile network or Wi-Fi available.
As we have become more accustomed to working remotely, the appetite for different types of working styles has grown. On both sides of the equation, the gig economy is becoming more attractive and in demand. The notion of needing to have in-house employees was challenged so businesses are outsourcing or hiring freelancers more.
And either through necessity or choice, more people are monetizing their skills in the freelance world. With the right technology to facilitate this growing sector, we see the opportunity for economic uplift in the most needed areas of this world.