By Neha Bagaria
Ever heard of the gig economy? It’s “a labour market characterized by the prevalence of short-term contracts or freelance work as opposed to permanent jobs”. Essentially, it means that employees are not full time, but employed on a project, assignment or consultancy basis to complete a specific project or task.
The traditional 9 to 5 full-time job is being turned on its head as the world becomes smaller and busier, and businesses become more efficient. In this day and age, when time is at a premium and traffic is a daily nightmare, many young people, millennials, and working mothers prefer flexibility rather than working from the confines of an office, in order to have greater control over their time. Companies also gain from these sorts of working arrangements, with reduced infrastructure costs and greater efficiency. Work from home, flexi-time and part time jobs are on the rise in India.
“Pune based Persistent Systems recently included several freelancers and consultants in a team that worked on a short-term project, a relatively new idea that’s steadily gaining popularity in the global technology services space.” This is what is becoming known as “Uberisation of the workforce, where talent works on a demand-supply model, moving across projects and organisations as per the demand and their interest areas.”
The nature of workplaces and the needs of employees have changed over time. On the one hand, employees are increasingly placing more value on personal time, and on the other companies are looking for new and innovative ways to increase their margins and improve overall efficiencies and bottom lines, as competition increases. The uberisation concept meets both these ends of the spectrum beautifully.
A major talent pool that stands to benefit from this new trend, is that of women returning to work from a career break. In India, 48% of women drop out of the work force before they reach the middle of their careers. The data tells a story all on its own: “out of 100 college graduates, 40 of them are women today. That is a huge testament to the work done by our mother’s generation and we are literally standing on their shoulders today.
But out of those 40 women, only 8 pursue a career. And out of those 8, 4 drop out in 3 years.
That means, 50% of all working women in India are dropping out of the workforce in 3 years, amounting to approximately 1.5 million Indian women who are going on a career-break every year.
The reasons as you can imagine are usually personal – marriage, motherhood, elderly care and the like.”
When these women do want to return to work, the road is often paved with potholes.
Starting with the lack of confidence, after being away from the workforce so long; the fear of how to explain the gap on their CVs when they go for interviews; the feeling of going back to square one if and when they are hired, because their salaries are nowhere near where they were when they quit working.
Many women returnees look for flexibility, because they are still the primary caregivers to children or elderly parents at home. The gig economy is perfect for this talent pool that’s just waiting to jump back in, feet first!
Work from home and part time/freelance assignments are amenable to types of work that can be templated and monitored efficiently. Writing, graphic design, IT, sales and data analysis are all examples of kinds of work that can be designed for work from home or flexi-time arrangements.
India Inc. is definitely catching on, with Infosys and Wipro also exploring the uberisation idea. “What is driving this trend is the changing preference of the young workforce more than the market uncertainty and political situation in their largest market, the US.”
This is an important step in the right direction, and a trend we’d like to highlight for companies looking to diversify their workforces. When more women return to work after career breaks, companies must make the effort to understand their needs, in order to retain them in the long term.
As Madhumitha Venkataraman, rightly said recently at a panel discussion on Alternative Career Paths organized by Lean In Bangalore, when organizations start to think about diversity holistically, not just from the point of view of employees but also suppliers, customers and the entire value chain, then policies, processes and infrastructure will all fall in place automatically.
And when more women returnees are hired at companies across the board, the enabling working environment will also fall in place, as companies understand the needs of this vast, untapped talent pool that’s waiting in the wings.
The first step is hiring women returnees to diversify your workforce. JobsForHer’s mission is to bring more women back to work in India. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org today to learn how we can help your company.