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Growth of the Malaysian Gig Economy Among Gen-Zers

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Millennials' preference for work-life balance has transformed the M'sian gig economy landscape.

Social media has been the main source in forming a new culture among the younger generation, creating a new norm that challenges Gen Z to come out of their comfort zone. With technology constantly progressing and simplifying the way we execute our tasks, the gig economy is now high in demand, especially during a time like COVID-19. 

While many among us are afraid of salary cuts and retrenchments, Malaysians are leveraging in on the resourcefulness and popularity of freelancing to make ends meet.  

According to Glenn Tay, Chief Executive Officer and Founder of Gigworks (pic), the freelancing landscape will not be diminishing anytime soon but will in fact continue to grow at a rapid pace as majority of the workforce are currently conquered by millennials and their priorities are more focused on work-life balance. 

“Malaysian youths, similar to those around the world, are always craving for that opportunity to do the things that they are passionate about, be it traveling, exploring, experiencing etc. and while doing so, they want to have the flexibility to earn sufficient income from wherever they are residing at that time. 

We cannot deny that this is a new way of working now where jobs are no longer restricted by geographical boundaries. The idea of being fully employed by one firm is not desirable for those looking to have ‘freedom’ in their work management,” said Tay.

With jobs experiencing drastic change and with the labour force shrinking, competition for talent is getting increasingly intense. Organisations need to think out-of-the-box to attract the talent market such as redesigning the job scopes in a way that can both draw in and connect with the Gen Z and, at the same time guarantee that these jobs continue to create a path for future talents.

The Gen Z in Comparison to X and Y

A study by the Zurich Insurance Group (Zurich) and the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment at the University of Oxford on agile workforce has found that 38% of the respondents in Malaysia who are currently in full-time employment, are looking to enter the gig economy in the next 12 months. This percentage is significantly higher than the global average of 20% recorded in the study.

While individuals involved in the gig economy come from a diverse range of backgrounds, identifying the main target is essential for the gig economy to develop in years to come. An ever-increasing number of individuals from Generation Z appear to shun ordinary 9-to-5 jobs. Instead, they would prefer working for themselves by freelancing their way in order to obtain their dream jobs.

The impact of their entry into the working environment will be quick and significant. However, Gen Z has an entirely different point of view compared to the rest when it comes to careers and how to define success.

Gen Z more inclined towards autonomy 

One of the factors contributing to more people opting for freelance work over permanent 9-to-5 professions is self-directed motivation. It is much simpler to be driven when you are in control of the flow of your work. 

It gives Gen Z a sense of autonomy which they desire for themselves – generating a sense of individuality, determination and providing the ability to achieve what they have been dreaming of. Having control over how they work and the type of job to work on is something that appeals to this young crowd.

The appeal in this type of working lifestyle is that it also allows for work to be centred around creative passions based on portfolios and skills, as opposed to a full-time job that provides steady income but is more monotonous and rigid in structure. 

For example, university students juggling between college and work-life can find it challenging, therefore they are looking for easier alternatives to fund their tuition fees. Joining the gig economy as a freelancer allows them to have this much desired flexibility. Although they may not always be able to earn as much as a full-timer, the option of being able to pay off their debts bit by bit while still having the capacity to manage their work-life-balance is satisfactory enough for these undergrads.

Desire for flexibility

According to Workforce Institute, 55% of Gen Z-ers are attracted to the ability to work on their terms in gig employments as the flexibility allows you to go at your own pace and avoid breakdowns. Approximately 26% of Gen Z-ers would work harder and remain longer at an organisation that supports flexible working hours. 

Millennials and Gen Z currently account for slightly over a third of the global workforce. In the next decade, that figure is set to shoot up to 58%, making the youthful generations the most dominant drivers of the workforce. 

To meet the demands of this up-and-coming generation, we, as a society, have to respond to these differences in a mutually beneficial way that would increase trust and generate positive societal impact. 

Thus, it is important that a proper transition and greater overall acceptance of freelance careers is in place to welcome this new way of work.

Digital natives 

Being moulded by technology, Gen Z was exposed to the Internet at a young age, making them the youngest influencers to appear on the scene. They are generally more tech-savvy than the older generations as they have never known a world without smartphones and the Internet. 

Non-traditional ways of working appeal to this group as they are more familiar and accustomed to a technology-driven society.

We see a rising consensus that digital readiness is no longer optional, but mandatory. When MCO was enforced, the few months of this nation-wide exercise have shown that Malaysians have become more comfortable with utilising technology to collaborate and deliver work on time, replacing the need for physical travel. 

However, this period also brought to light certain difficulties and challenges encountered when working from home such as network issues, communication barriers, and lack of technology readiness. 

Nonetheless, Malaysia is well equipped and ready to adapt to this new normal, with Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad looking to implement the gig economy as part of the upcoming 12th Malaysia Plan, and most organisations already alerted and prepared following the MCO period.  

It is only a matter of time before we start to enjoy improved network connectivity and speed, better IT infrastructure, and clear work procedure and discipline to be implemented for the majority of Malaysian freelancers. 

Gig Work – Appealing Enough?

Numerous permanent jobs today do not provide a similar degree of job security compared to the past as employers often look at optimising cost efficiencies. Organisations often choose to reduce operation size as a way to find more resources to invest in other parts of the businesses.

Instead of simply keeping full-time employees, a coordinated workforce permits organisations to better manage expenses and investments to coordinate business and market demands. Gen Z wants both stability and flexibility at the same time to stay in business. 

Due to this sentiment and in realising the limited options for individuals to find valid yet justifiable freelance work, Gigworks, a mobile application providing online professional service engagement is opening doors for all groups including the younger generation to ensure their talents are being recognised by businesses while catering to the needs of Gen Z. 

“We want to introduce a culture that builds the interest of Gen Z to have a work-balance and offer stability to foster them financially especially during a time like this. Encouraging them to pursue their passion will only make them more confident, allowing them to venture into new projects,” said Tay. 

In a nutshell, now that technology finally exists and caters to these demands, this will be something everyone can benefit from in the gig industry.

This article is contributed by Gigworks, a mobile application inspired by the impact and advancement of technology in people's lives. For more information on the company and its services, visit www.gigworks.co/sg.

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