By | Abhijit Bhaduri |Keynote speaker, Author and Columnist
The funnel for traditional employment is narrowing and the opportunities for freelancers are rising.
The Big Mac Index is calculated by dividing the price of a McDonald’s Big Mac in one country by the price of a Big Mac in another country in their respective local currencies to arrive at an exchange rate. The Auto Index could be an informal measure to understand what is happening in the automobile sector.
How the Auto Index for Jobs works
For decades after independence, Indians had to choose from three makes of cars – the Ambassador, Fiat or Standard Herald. Then came Maruti and then the market opened up to a set of choices made by global brands. Having more than one car is now common.
The employment scene too progressed in parallel. Indians used to be employed by the government or the public sector and self-employment was in a couple of professions. Doctors, engineers, lawyers and chartered accountants were self-employed. As the economy opened up, getting employed with multinationals to pursue a global career became a desirable choice. The middle class became more prosperous, and the nation’s appetite to take risks went up. Entrepreneurs and startups became socially accepted. Now freelance work is becoming an increasingly mainstream choice. And the traditional auto sector is giving way to the autonomous vehicle. Being a gig worker or a freelancer gives a person the autonomy a job cannot.
India accounts for one third of the global freelancer market valued at $3 billion. This is a market growing at an annual rate of 14 percent.
Gig work is rising faster than regular employment
Gig work has many attractive benefits. It can be a wonderful way to boost one’s earnings if one is employed. It can offer more control over one’s work hours for someone seeking to be a caregiver for a family member. India accounts for one third of the global freelancer market valued at $3 billion. This is a market growing at an annual rate of 14 percent. India currently accounts for $1 billion of the global market. 15 million freelancers in India work in areas such as IT, programming, UX design, finance, HR, content writing, etc. According to Kelly OCG seven out of 10 talent managers using freelancers see the employer-worker relationship shifting, with talent asserting more leverage.
Read: How to succeed as a gig worker
The funnel for traditional employment is narrowing down with several tasks now being automated. Business models that have run for decades is now crumbling down and collapsing. Companies that have been seen as too big to fail, have been asked to leave the Dow Jones Industrial Average.
Build vs buy
Employers have started to use freelancers and gig workers (who find work through a platform) to supplement their skill portfolio. Freelancers are being looked at as part of the talent strategy of every firm. CHROs are hiring freelancers to upskill their team members and fill up the skill gaps even as they wait for new hires to join.
The talent marketplaces like LinkedIn are horizontal. They list the resumes of people with every kind of skills and domain knowledge across sectors. In the meanwhile, vertical marketplaces are coming up that lists people for a specific industry. Blue collar job markets already exist. UrbanClap offers hyperlocal services in several metros and major cities. Wedding photographers, yoga trainers, interior designers, dieticians, beauticians, plumbers, are all hired, screened, trained and deployed.
Expect to see the specialized job markets emerging for white collar jobs as well. There will be an equivalent for LinkedIn by expertise for each profession (eg lawyers, architects); by demographics (eg women, retirees, disability, LGBTQ); by previous experience (eg, Military service) or even by duration of employment expected (eg, a few days or weeks or for the duration of a project). In white collar jobs, the differentiation between someone with average skills and deep expertise is immense. Currently the buyers have no method of knowing the proficiency of the freelancer who is offering services.
By displaying the certificates in their office, some professionals choose to let the clients know that they are up to date in their knowledge. But skills require a combination of hard skills and soft skills.
According to Kelly OCG, seven out of 10 talent managers using freelancers see the employer-worker relationship shifting, with talent asserting more leverage
Soft skill gaps remain unmet
The freelancers need to update their technical skills as well as their soft skills. If there is a change in compliance norms driven by a change in legislation, say GDPR, the freelancers will get themselves certified and also let the clients know that their knowledge is up to date. A gap in hard skills is easy to sense and easy to bridge through a certification. It is not the same for a soft skill. If a freelancer needs to improve his or her ability to communicate the value-proposition to a client, it is harder to know that there is a gap, harder to find a provider who will bridge the gap and then announce the improvement in proficiency to the client. In many cases, the freelancer does not have the awareness that the gap is becoming a deal-breaker and needs to be addressed.
Every freelancer has to be their own C-Suite. If they do not understand the complexity of the taxes they have to pay, they can work with an accounting firm or a tax lawyer. In an organization, the Learning and Development team will assess the gaps in soft skills (along with the technical knowledge and domain knowledge) that are there for each employee and create a plan to bridge the gap. That option goes away for freelancers. They can’t assess their own skill gap in this area.
The government can allocate part of the professional taxes towards soft skills development. Industry bodies run soft skill assessment and skill-building opportunities for freelancers. This is a growing workforce and a growing skill gap. It needs immediate attention.