PETALING JAYA: The gig economy, a vibrant and evolving sector in Malaysia, has seen a significant surge and prospects are bright going forward amid some challenges.
As of this year-to-date, it engages about four million individuals, over a quarter of Malaysia’s workforce, with a majority being young adults aged 25 to 44.
In 2019, a study by the Employees Provident Fund predicted that gig workers will account for 40% of those employed in Malaysia in five years’ time, around twice the worldwide average.
The gig economy consists of freelance jobs that offer flexible and temporary work for individuals, utilising online platforms to provide services for clients in search of such services.
Shedding light into the prospects of the gig economy amid the tough global economic scenario and geopolitical risks, Joelle Pang, general manager of FastGig Malaysia, said she is optimistic that it would flourish.
She attributed this to several key factors.
She told StarBiz that one of the primary drivers is the increasing digitalisation and connectivity in the country.
She said the widespread use of smartphones and the availability of high-speed Internet have made it easier for individuals to access gig platforms and for businesses to leverage gig workers.
“This has led to the boom of the gig economy in Malaysia, with currently nearly 40% of the country’s workforce and about 26% of its labour pool participating in the sector.
“Moreover, the flexibility offered by gig work is likely to attract a considerable workforce.
“Many Malaysians, particularly the younger generation, appreciate the autonomy that gig jobs provide.
“Especially now since the very definition of gig work has broaden to include non-traditional gig work, such as, operational and customer-facing roles in retail, food and beverage, warehousing and events which also includes cashiers, service crew, baristas, picker and packers, as well as event sales promoters,” Pang noted.
FastGig Malaysia operates its flexi-work platform FastGig targeted at jobseekers searching for flexible work opportunities beyond conventional part-time or full-time employment.
FastCo Malaysia is the company behind FastJobs and FastGig. FastJobs is among the fastest-growing and top recruitment apps in Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines.
However, she said despite its reputation for flexibility, the gig economy often leaves gig workers without essential social protections, fair pay, opportunities for skill improvement and safe working environments.
To ensure the long-term success of the gig economy, it is crucial to address these significant challenges head on, Pang added.
She said one of the biggest challenges gig workers faced was the lack of relevant financial services.
The inconsistent nature of gig work often deprives workers of access to financial products like loans, health coverage, or life insurance due to irregular incomes.
To address this situation, FastGig recently forged a strategic alliance with Bank Islam.
“The collaboration aims to empower gig workers on FastGig’s platform by providing a comprehensive suite of benefits offered on the Be U by Bank Islam’s platform. This will then allow seamless access to a range of financial tools, from banking services to insurance and more.
“Aside from this, gig workers often lack job security and the benefits that come with traditional employment, such as health insurance and retirement plans. Addressing these concerns will be crucial to maintaining a healthy and motivated gig workforce.
“There needs to be more effort from both gig work providers and other stakeholders as gig workers must be socially protected in the workplace.
“Equitable employment opportunities must be extended in order to better address the issues of unemployment and underemployment.
“Providing gig workers with the protection they require will lead to empowerment, autonomy and financial security, thereby improving their overall quality of life,” she said.
Pang said, in a nutshell, the gig economy in Malaysia is poised for expansion over the next few years, driven by technological advancements, changing work preferences and entrepreneurial opportunities.
However, she said addressing challenges related to job security, regulatory frameworks, skills development and societal perceptions would be crucial for fostering a sustainable and inclusive gig economy.