The Gig Economy is Thriving in Asia-Pacific

The Kelly research includes a Workforce Optimisation Maturity Index which provides insight into the maturity level with which firms currently leverage the gig workforce.


New research from KellyOCG, a workforce solutions provider, with an extensive network presence in APAC, provides insight into why companies hire gig workers and what the most innovative among them do differently from their peers. Surveying 2,100 talent managers worldwide with 403 residing in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region—across industries and career disciplines—KellyOCG uncovered new insights about gig adoption rates, the outlook for gig hiring, the growing influence of independents, and areas for competitive innovation.

“KellyOCG has long advocated for a more flexible work arrangement besides the traditional “9-5” workday, as well as integrating permanent and contingent talent in organisations. Companies in APAC who optimise their workforce by taking a holistic approach, reap greater benefits and the competitive advantage of a more agile workforce,” said Pete Hamilton, Vice President & Regional Director of APAC at KellyOCG.

Commenting on the shifting working trends, Francis Padamadan, Senior Director, Asia Pacific – RPO & BPS Practice at KellyOCG said, “As the world of work changes, the employer-employee relationship is shifting right along with it. Long-term commitments to employers are waning. The best talent is seeking greater control and ownership over how they integrate work with their personal lives and passions. With this shift in the way that Indians want to work, careers built on flexibility continue to gain ground. As a result, the gig economy is thriving in India, and the majority of talent managers are leveraging gig workers in their teams and departments to drive efficiency, innovation, and competitive advantage.”  

KellyOCG defines gig work (also known as free agency) as any type of work in which talent is paid for a discrete task, project, or a certain period of time. This includes diversified workers with many sources of incomes, contract workers or freelancers, small business owners, temporary workers or moonlighters.

“Companies can harness the full value that these workers bring if they are successfully embedded into the organisations they work for. With APAC being a key contributor to the global gig economy, there is an urgency to introduce a more agile way of working to fully leverage the gig economy and move ahead,” added Pete.

The Kelly research includes a Workforce Optimisation Maturity Index which provides insight into the maturity level with which firms currently leverage the gig workforce. Those that use gig workers less effectively than their peers are called laggards; those with stronger skills and commensurate benefits are competents and differentiators. The most-skilled organisations are innovators.

The most noteworthy survey findings include:

Gig work thriving globally: 65 per cent of talent/hiring managers say the gig economy is rapidly becoming the new normal for how businesses organise work. The APAC region has outpaced the rest of the world with 84 per cent(APAC) of talent managers hiring or using gig workers.

A flexible workforce is a way forward: 3 in 4 talent/hiring managers in APAC (79 per cent) say a much more flexible and fluid workforce will emerge as a way to navigate an increasingly dynamic global business climate.

Workers are free agents by choice: 75 per cent of global free agents choose gig to work for positive reasons, seeing it as a way to improve their personal and professional lives.

The advantages are clear: Globally 43 per cent of organisations engaging gig workers to experience at least a 20 per cent labour cost savings and 72 per cent say using gig workers/free agent talent gives their team/organisation a competitive advantage.

To understand the full potential of the gig workforce, watch the innovators. They make up just 13 per cent of all companies but can reap big rewards when it comes to deploying and leveraging gig labour. Innovators are heavy users of gig labour and are committed to building a more flexible and fluid workforce. They also tend to use independents for highly visible and strategic challenges as they view gig workers not as outsiders, but as a critical and valuable component of the overall workforce. Innovators are also highly advanced in how they use technology to aid in the practices and processes of managing gig labour and are good at onboarding and retaining them. Not surprisingly, this group reports the highest level of cost savings: innovators are nearly 3 times more likely than laggards to save over 30 per cent on labour cost.

Within the report, KellyOCG also identified headwinds and tailwinds that are working together to shape the gig economy. These include the following:

Skills gap: Companies today need a ready supply of knowledge workers in emerging areas of expertise to stay competitive.

Work/life design: More and more freelancers are opting for gig work by choice rather than economic necessity. As independents, they have greater autonomy about how, when and where to work—and employers are feeling pressure to adapt to these preferences. The research shows seven out of 10 talent managers using free agents see the employer-worker relationship shifting, with talent asserting more leverage.

Technology advancements: The surge in the “human cloud” (technologies that enable virtual collaboration) have made gig work much more cost-effective and productive. Technological improvements, generally, have enabled more people to work from anywhere – creating a cycle of increasing demand to have more flexibility in their work style.

Economic pressure: Volatile market conditions have made many employers wary of adding to their permanent payrolls and more receptive to the concept of a scalable, variable workforce in order to be competitive.

Embracing (or confronting) these dynamics can help leading organisations craft a pathway to the benefits that go along with a highly agile workforce strategy.


Tags assigned to this article:
gig economy technology skill gap work force innovation


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