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Going by many names – usually to suit the situation – this growing group of talent that renders their services on a per-project basis have become all the rage in the last several years. And for good reason – they’re an advantage for employers looking to outsource work in the interest of keeping their teams lean and for employees looking for the freedom to handle their own work schedules with less commitment. Defined as a labour market characterised by the prevalence of short-term contracts, the gig economy seems to be mutually beneficial for both parties.
A Ministry of Manpower (MOM) survey which included part-time freelancers who also hold other jobs showed that there are about 200,000 such workers in Singapore. Approximately 167,000 individuals engaged in freelance work here as their primary job last year. This meteoric rise in Singaporeans opting for flexible self-employed contract work is due to several reasons, and we take a look at some of the appeals and drawbacks of entering the freelance world.
The Desire for Flexibility
Many fresh graduates looking for employment post degree get disgruntled by the glut present in certain industries. After efforts to plant themselves a position – often working freelance in the mean time – they find that contract work allows them to earn a tidy enough sum without the commitment that comes with full time positions. They often romanticise keeping their own hours and the perceived flexibility of entering the self-employed world from the get-go for good reason – they only have to answer to themselves and are able to work from anywhere.
The Rise of Disruptive Tech
The likes of Uber have paved the way for a plethora of jobs that allow members of the public to make money with the use of their vehicle and a smartphone (or tablet). The barriers to entry caused by such technological advances have made such methods of earning extra cash (or providing for a full time income), extremely accessible to almost everyone willing to take on the role of a driver in any major city. This affordability has stretched across several industries over the last few years. Online platforms have allowed designers and content creators to work from the comfort of their homes, picking and choosing jobs as and when they like.
Freelancers get drawn to the promise of the sky being the limit when it comes to their propensity to earn money. Although not always true in practice (due to the fact that one can only work that many hours), not having a ceiling in terms of earnings also often allows them to be more discretionary in the way they select what kind of projects they work on.
The Flip Side
The gig economy is not just a bed of roses. New entries find themselves creating their own quotations, invoicing clients, managing their own schedule, and most importantly, organising their own business development. A regular position guarantees a paycheck every month in stark variance to a freelance one where one needs to prepare for times when work declines.
Aside from the instability that comes with non-regular paychecks, Singaporeans who decide to enter the industry also have to prepare for their own retirement – it is not compulsory for the self-employed to make their own CPF contributions. One also forgoes all annual and medical leave, which are benefits that full-time employees usually take for granted.
And there we have it, a few of the attractions and factors that one should be mindful of before entering the realm of the gig economy. Whether one decides to stick to the beaten path of stable employment or to go out alone, it’s all about weighing the pros and cons of both – taking into account what commitments one has.