Embrace gig economy to mitigate unemployment

Friday, September 22nd, 2023 00:15 | By
Photo illustrator. PHOTO/Pexels
Photo illustrator. PHOTO/Pexels

In the wee hours of this week, thousands of Kenyan youths braced the Nairobi morning chilly weather to try their luck in the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) recruitment drive at the Embakasi Garrison.

This event aimed to fill 350 positions within the KDF. The recruitment drive attracted over 7,000 youths, clearly showing the magnitude of unemployment crisis in the country. Efforts to address unemployment have been unsuccessful so far. Is it time to embrace the gig economy?

In a gig economy, businesses engage independent contractors for short-term projects. Contractors can take on multiple jobs in various organisations. The prevalence of short-term and flexible work arrangements, where individuals often work as independent contractors, freelancers, or on temporary assignments rather than being traditional full-time employees, characterises them.

Gig workers are across sectors: Uber drivers, delivery agents, lecturers, journalists, writers, wedding planners, software engineers, photographers, realtors among others. Kenya’s remarkable digital penetration has played a significant role in shaping this phenomenon.

Today, you can work when you want and work where you want. This flexibility has been enabled by technology and made possible by the trend of remote working. Globally, the gig economy has been touted as a remedy for unemployment. Proponents argue it offers a range of employment opportunities, particularly for youth and individuals seeking flexible work arrangements. In Kenya, the government has recognised the gig economy’s potential to create jobs, especially for young people, according to ICT Cabinet Secretary Eliud Owalo.

With the rise of gig platforms like Kenya’s Kuhustle, individuals are no longer confined to traditional employment models. They can now explore a range of work opportunities that align with their skills and interests. Gig platforms offer a plethora of options to showcase your talents and find clients from all over the world.

It also allows individuals to diversify income streams, providing a sense of financial security and stability.

The gig economy holds immense potential for enhancing employment opportunities by seamlessly connecting individuals with work through digital platforms. This innovative system empowers people to use their unique skills and valuable assets, such as vehicles or homes, to earn income in a flexible manner.

In a world where the traditional 9-to-5 model no longer fits the diverse needs and aspirations of many, the gig economy offers a lifeline. It opens doors to a vast array of opportunities, allowing individuals to craft their own schedules and choose projects that align with their skills and interests. Whether it’s a stay-at-home parent seeking to balance family responsibilities with work, a student aiming to gain practical experience while studying, or someone seeking to supplement their income, the gig economy provides a viable solution.

Despite its allure and potential benefits, the gig economy presents a set of challenges that cannot be overlooked. Job insecurity and the absence of traditional employment benefits are among the key concerns policymakers and businesses must address when advocating for the gig economy as a viable solution to the pressing issue of unemployment.

Businesses should offer alternative benefits and support systems to gig workers, such as access to training and skill development programs, as well as opportunities for career advancement.

Policymakers should explore mechanisms to enhance job security within the gig economy, such as establishing minimum wage standards, ensuring access to affordable healthcare options, and facilitating retirement savings plans.

However, it may not address all the challenges associated with unemployment, and policymakers need to ensure that gig workers enjoy fair labour conditions and protections.

— The writer is an Innovations Evangelist and a PhD candidate. [email protected]

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