“There is no good way to do a layoff,” Meta chief executive officer (CEO) Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a blog post in November, announcing the decision to give pink slips to 11,000 employees. With this, Meta joined the long list of companies, including Amazon, Twitter, and Apple, to announce job cuts. In India alone, over 18,000 employees have been fired as of December 8, according to one estimate.
Amidst uncertainty, white-collar employees are now increasingly looking at the gig economy to find work. According to a report by staffing platform Taskmo, the demand for the white-collar gig workforce in the previous quarter has increased seven times compared to the same quarter last year. The platform has added over ten thousand people “with a majority of white-collar gig workers” in the quarter.
Gig workers earn their income outside the traditional, long-term employer-employee relationships.
“Increase in the case of moonlighting and layoff across all industries has triggered the wave of gig economy among white-collar workers,” Prashant Janadri and Naveen Ram, co-founders at Taskmo, told Business Standard.
The boost in the gig economy is not limited to higher demand, the supply of such workers is also on the rise. Employees, especially white-collar, demand better work conditions and diversity.
“The rise of white collar gig workers is as much a supply-side driven phenomenon as it is a demand-driven one. The newer workforce, particularly in the post-pandemic environment, is looking at hyper-flexible work models as opposed to a traditional 9-5 work week…The main driver for this is a desire to have better control over work-life balance, and also the diversity of experience which various gigs provide,” said Ritika Mathur, partner of Human Capital Consulting at Grant Thornton Bharat.
“There has been a considerable influx of Millennials and Gen Zs in the gig and the creator economy. Millennials and Gen Z demand more control of their work life, flexibility and balance in their jobs. Thus, gigs have become a desirable choice for many,” said Samridhi Bhardwaj, freelance writer and co-founder at Big Leap Communication.
Working in the gig economy also comes with considerable tax benefits.
“Unlike salaried employees, Gig workers have options of either claiming the business expenses against business income or offering business income on a presumptive basis if eligible. Both options provide income tax relief to a great extent,” said Geetanshu Bhalla, a Delhi-based chartered accountant (CA) and director at law and taxation firm The Virtual Compliance.
With the push to the digital economy following the Covid-19 pandemic, “professionals who were all a part of an organisation have either taken up an additional job or contractual/temporary gigs,” Bhardwaj added.
The requirement of particular skill sets has additionally boosted the demand for white-collar workers.
However, most gig jobs currently do not offer social security arrangements like provident fund and pension.
“Social security arrangements including Employer contribution towards Provident fund, Pension Fund, ESIC, gratuity, mandatory paid leaves including maternity, regulated working hours, the applicability of labour law, etc., are generally not applicable on the gig arrangements,” Bhalla said.
“One should not only analyse the applicability of direct and indirect tax provisions but also analyse the social security arrangements before entering any gig contract,” he added.
With the companies working on expanding the definition of “employees” in the coming days, this might be addressed soon. The demand for white collars is likely to surge further.
“A lot of organisations are working on bringing in a separate career track to enable their employees who would like to operate flexibly on a freelance basis. Regulators also have been expanding the definition of ’employees’ thereby making gig workers eligible for traditional employee benefits,” Mathur said.
“…this trend is expected to continue for the foreseeable future,” she added.