The COVID-19 pandemic has completely changed the face of employment across the world, with millions of employees having undertaken freelance work within the past 12 months. As reported by The Economic Times 64% of C-suite executives prefer to continue with remote working structures. Tighter restrictions in some areas coupled with the ease of hiring and lower expense imposed by freelance workers are the main reasons for this phenomenon. From an employee’s perspective, freelancing is a way for families to make ends meet in tough times, with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) reporting that millions of workers have lost their jobs owing to the pandemic. The arrival of vaccinations holds promise. But signs abound that freelancing could continue to hold its footing in the workforce across an array of industries.
The Growing Power Of Digitalization
The breakneck speed of digitalization will continue to increase the demand for freelance workers, but this phenomenon laid its roots way before the pandemic. New technologies in areas such as data analytics, software, and automated operations mean that businesses are creating new models that can easily accommodate contributions from workers from afar. In the post-pandemic world, embracing remote working models may very well be a matter of survival. This is evident in the spending on digital transformation, which grew by 10.4% in 2020 to a total of $1.3 million. The expenditure, says the International Data Corporation, was “one of the few bright spots in a year characterized by dramatic reductions in overall technology spending.”
The Desire For Flexibility
Prior to the outbreak of the pandemic, millennials across the world began to show an interest in remote working, owing to its ability to afford them a much-desired work-life balance. In fact, over 75% of those asked in a 2019 survey already expressed their desire to work from home. As economies pick up and more opportunities arise for telecommuting, younger generations will continue to see remote work as one of the main ways to enjoy flexibility in their professional lives.
Skill Sets That Suit The Gig Economy
The Indian government itself has hopped on the gig economy bandwagon, contracting companies like Digital India, Swachh Bharat, and Smart Cities for key projects. The truth is that many of the most highly demanded services – including those involving skills in information technology, marketing, and design – are easily performed remotely. Other growing areas include content writing, mobile app development, and programming.
Should Freelancers be Given Benefits?
Alex Rosenblat from the Harvard Business Review argues that because the gig economy is undoubtedly going to continue to grow post-pandemic, government intervention is necessary to ensure that freelance workers receive unemployment benefits. In March 2020, for instance, the federal CARES Act extended unemployment insurance to independent contractors. As the author states, the pandemic “is an opportunity for policymakers to break out of the contractor-employee binary by creating a permanent social safety net that would cover all types of workers.” Protecting freelance workers makes sense during a time in which the companies that do survive the crisis will have to increasingly rely on remote workers. Rosenblat argues that more extensive protection is required which covers other rights that employee status offers workers – including rights covering overtime, collective bargaining, and the like. This will enable freelancers to enjoy just protection regardless of whether or not their ‘employers’ decide to classify them as ‘employees’ or ‘contractors’.
Freelancing has been a godsend for both companies and employees who may have lost their online posts owing to the pandemic. Prior to COVID-19, however, there were already many signs that the world was ready to switch from an in-office model to a remote working/freelance-type structure. Today, the advancement of the Cloud and other digital technologies, the demand for flexible working structures, and the need for technical and specialized skills that can be performed remotely are all shaping remote work as a dominant model for employment. The rapid expansion of the freelance working model brings about legal considerations – including the need for legislation that protects the rights of contractors when it comes to overtime, sick leave, and other benefits that those with employee status enjoy. The freelance working boom is likely to enable many companies to survive at a time in which their finances are already suffering. However, the distribution of public resources more equitably among workers will reflect the new reality that freelance workers have come to form such an important part of. After all, this may not be the last crisis that the nation has to face over the coming decades.