Most of the time, the term “gig worker” conjures up visions of food delivery riders, couriers, and other positions that do not require an extensive resume.
But as the Covid-19 crisis continues spawning other crises of financial and economic nature, more and more professionals who are both qualified and skilled are turning to short-term, contract work in their own fields.
Sookie Ng, a writer in the creative industry who is currently working with a publishing firm in Kuala Lumpur, was holding a steady job but wanted to do other work on the side.
The trouble was, most of the side jobs she found were completely unrelated to her field of expertise.
“Everywhere I looked, it was just full-time jobs. If it was a part-time job, it was either a delivery job or a tech-related job.”
Part-time work related to her industry was thin on the ground, it seemed. She was also mindful of the bad experiences she had heard of from others, about employers who were too demanding or who even skimped on pay.
One day, she came across an ad on Facebook which sparked her interest. It was about a job portal that hooked applicants up with prospective employers looking for short-term help.
“I sent in a few applications and didn’t think too much about it after that.
“But to my surprise, I got a response from the employer and then I got hired, and I did the job and got paid,” she told MalaysiaNow.
The term “gig worker” was popularised when demand began to build for delivery services. Many scrambled for a chance to earn a side income by delivering food or goods or ferrying passengers.
While there is no official data on the number of gig workers in Malaysia, it is estimated at around 250,000 to 300,000.
Shahryn Azmi, founder and executive director of portal MakeTimePay, said given the right opportunity many professionals were open to doing gig work related to their experience and qualifications.
“These factors are why we have been rapidly gaining ground,” he said, adding that the portal currently has over 120,000 job opportunities to offer.
Through the portal, he said, an accountant who wants to earn a bit more on the side has no need of becoming a food deliveryman.
Instead, he can apply his experience and expertise to short-term tasks for companies in need of such professionals.
“These gig workers are paid for their time based on their skills and qualifications,” he added.
Algorithms are used to match applicants with the appropriate jobs although this method is not always entirely accurate as some tasks do not require academic or professional skills, only interest and experience.
But on the whole, the concept has been welcomed by workers, employers and companies alike.
“The traditional employment method has always been to hire full-time workers, or not to hire at all,” Shahryn said.
“But now, it’s ‘hire as needed’. People could be hired for an hour, or for a day, a week or a month.”
It’s not only professionals who have been sending in their applications. Students, too, have been looking for a way to earn some money on the side.
Delson Ngan, who studies at the Asia Pacific Institute of Technology, enjoyed working part-time but could not always find a job that would fit. When his friend mentioned the portal and the concept on which it was based, he thought he would give it a shot.
“I didn’t have much to do during my free time, even more so during the movement control order (MCO), so I thought why not just make a quick buck somewhere.”
Ngan is in the tech industry but as he is not a programmer, finding a part-time job was tough.
“But the selection on MakeTimePay seems broader, and I came across a few that are suitable for me,” he said.
Shahryn said the MCO and Covid-19 crisis had brought about severe challenges for micro SMEs in particular, which are struggling to manage their overhead costs.
“One moment, operations are closed and the next there is mad demand. The only way this can be made to work is by having access to an on-demand workforce.
“This is the way to the future, work-wise,” he said.