GIG WORKERS IN THE REGION

In the past decade fraught with numerous problems and challenges – from COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, security and economic crises, the world has seen an unprecedented growth of digital labour markets. According to the World Bank estimates, there are some 163 million active gig workers in the world today. Disruptive changes of information and communication technologies created completely new opportunities for doing business, social progress, increase of wellbeing of individuals, producing at the same time new challenges – primarily so in the domain of  dignified work of these workers (and not only them).

The objective of the project Gigmetar is to identify systemic characteristics of gig work market in the region of South-Eastern Europe. This market includes Romania and Serbia, as two countries that particularly distinguish themselves in  global statistics with respect to the concentration and number of talents in the domain of gig work. North Macedonia, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina also stand out in relative terms (according to the gig workers/population ratio).

The most recent measurement shows the slowing down and a negative growth of a, previously strong, expansion of digital labour market. Namely, the number of gig workers has been declining slightly. The population of registered gig workers on three large platforms has decreased by 1.6%, with the continuing trend registered during the previous measurement (decrease amounting to 2.2%).

HIGHLIGHTS

The total number of gig workers in the region is stagnating, but the workers from other platforms are migrating to Upwork. In the most recent measurement, Upwork became the most dominant digital platform in all the countries of South-Eastern Europe for the first time.

The biggest absolute number of gig workers are the gig workers in Serbia comprising 1/4 of the regional population. The absolute highest number of gig workers per capita work in North Macedonia – 300 workers per 100,000 inhabitants.

The downward trend of relative numbers of gig workers in the highest paid professions – software development and multimedia and creative services – persists.  On the other hand, faster growth of the number of gig workers in less sophisticated domains – data entry and administrative jobs – is evident.

The share of women exceeds 40% in Albania and Montenegro, and for the first time in North Macedonia and Croatia. Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Hungary and Romania follow suit closely. In the domain of women participation, the observed region has thus become one of the leading in the world, second only to the USA and Malaysia.

According to the number gig workers in them, the most popular professions among men are creative services and multimedia, and software development. Creative services and multimedia lead among female gig workers, followed by writing and translation. Data entry and administrative services are in the third place.

The earnings in the region have slightly increased relative to the previous six months. The workers in Croatia and Hungary are the best paid, and those in North Macedonia are the least paid.

LEADING PLATFORMS

Measured by the number of gig workers, the dominant global platforms in South-Eastern Europe are Upwork, Freelancer and Guru, with 103,307 workers registered in the observed nine countries in the region in the most recent measurement. The most recent measurement also shows significant changes in certain platforms which particularly impacted their market share. Namely, the earlier measurement indicated a significant decrease of the number of active gig workers on Freelancer (17.1%), and the most recent one shows an even more pronounced decrease of the number of active gig workers on Guru – 28.8%. Numerous factors could have brought about this decline – from the change of methodology by which a platform presents active gig workers to potentially lower appeal thereof relative to others. This may be the result of some shortcomings of Guru.

Notwithstanding a significant decline on Guru, the most important change was registered on the most significant platform in this part of Europe – Upwork. Read more ...

Namely, the previous measurement showed an increase of the number of active users on Upwork, which was relevant both in absolute and relative terms (almost 3,000 new users and 7.1% growth relative to the February 2021 measurement). It persisted in the past six months with at an even more pronounced pace: the growth rate was 2.5 times stronger and amounted to 16.4% in relative terms i.e., with more than 7,300 new gig workers. Upwork thus not only solidified its position in the countries where it was a dominant platform, but also became the dominant platform in all the countries. The regional morphology of the labour market in the most recent measurement shows that Upwork holds more than a half of the market – 50.5%, Freelancer comes second with a slight growth relative to the previous measurement (an increase from 25% to 26.1%), while Guru is the least represented platform in this part of Europe with a 23.4% market share (the decline was as high as 8.9%) due to the simultaneous activity of two factors – a high decrease of the number of gig workers on it and a significant (Upwork) and moderate (Freelancer) growth on the other two platforms.

Two factors were considered with respect to the accuracy of our assessments. The first refers to change of methodology of presentation of gig workers on different platforms, and the second to the existence of multiple profiles of (the same) gig workers on (different) platforms. The second problem is not overly significant because the platforms are interested in showing only those workers who are truly available to potential employers and thus update their databases of gig workers relatively regularly. Therefore, although a certain number of gig workers have profiles on several platforms, this does not disrupt the assessments on actually available work force because they are all active. Still, the existence of double or multiple profiles impacts the accuracy of assessment of the actual number of gig workers in the region.

On the other hand, the change of presentation of active gig workers on Guru is completely evident, because their number dropped in all the countries. If the decrease of the number of gig workers on Guru results from stricter criteria applied with respect to activity (work engagement) on the platforms, it increases the accuracy of the estimated actual number of gig workers on the dominant platforms.

SHARE OF GIG WORKERS BY COUNTRY AS % OF REGIONAL TOTAL

Systemic characteristics on the gig labour market related to their geographic dispersion, professions, gender, income and the ensuing distributions are observed relative to the platform that appeared dominant in all the countries in the region in the most recent measurement.

According to the results of the most recent measurement, there has been a slight decrease of their share at the level of the region in the countries where the most numerous gig population is located – Serbia and Romania – from 47.6% to 44.8%. This, despite a significant increase of the number of gig workers in these countries. It resulted in an even more intensive growth in other countries of South-Eastern Europe. In view of the results of the most recent measurement which registered a 16.4% increase, the cumulative terms the gig population on the dominant platform grew by ¼ over the past year. Furthermore, a big change in dynamics was recorded: totalling 3% in the period October 2020 – February 2021, more than 7.1% in the period February – August 2021, and up to the above mentioned 16.4% in the most recent measurement. Serbia remains the dominant destination of gig workers on Upwork with the regional share remaining at 24.3%. Read more ...

Interesting changes are noted when observing the trend of the number of workers by country relative to the previous measurement from the aspect of changes within the countries (relative to the previous measurement) and by the share of concrete country relative to the gig population in the region.

With respect to the trend of the number of gig workers, all the countries with the exception of Bosnia and Herzegovina, recorded a growth – from the “modest“ 12.2% in Serbia and 14.9% in Montenegro, to the notable growth rates exceeding 20% in as many as four countries: Hungary 27.5%, Albania 25.6%, Romania 21.9%, Croatia 20.9% and North Macedonia 20.7%. Although Bosnia and Herzegovina recorded a 6.5% drop of the number of gig workers, an incredible growth of almost 40% registered in the previous measurement, allows it to have a significantly more numerous gig population on this platform today more than a year ago.

On the other hand, the share of the countries in the total number of gig workers in the region has changed as compared to the previous measurement. Concretely, the share of Serbia has decreased moderately despite the large influx of new work force. However, all the other countries save Bosnia and Herzegovina (a 2% decrease) and Montenegro (practically unchanged, i.e., a 0.03% decrease), recorded an increase of share in the regional gig population. At the annual level, only North Macedonia and Croatia saw a continuous increase of the gig work force share at the regional level. 

NUMBER OF GIG WORKERS PER 100,000 POPULATION, BY COUNTRY

Aiming to compare the level of development of the gig market as accurately as possible, in order to neutralize the difference in the size of the countries, the following graph shows the relative number of gig workers in regard to the size of the country i.e., the population. Interestingly, all the countries (with the exception of Bosnia and Herzegovina) saw an increase of the number of gig workers. This is the result of two forces: depopulation trends in most of the countries in the region and a high relative increase of the number of gig workers. The highest increase of the number of gig workers per capita occurred in North Macedonia (50 gig workers per 100,000 inhabitants more relative to the previous measurement), whereby it remained dominant in the region. In the most recent measurement, North Macedonia has 300 gig workers per 100,000 inhabitants or 62% more than Serbia which comes second with 185 gig workers. Thanks to the significant increase of the number of gig workers, Albania is almost equal to Serbia – with 182 gig workers per 100,000 inhabitants. The significant share of gig workers, by this criterion, is that of Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina, making it a specific feature of the Western Balkans within the observed wider region.

Looking into the cumulative changes over the last year, and save for the increase of almost 80 gig workers per 100,000 inhabitants in North Macedonia, Montenegro also recorded a notable growth with 50 new gig workers, Albania 46, Bosnia and Herzegovina 36, Serbia and Croatia 23 each, with a more modest growth recorded in Romania (12), Bulgaria (11) and Hungary (7).

REGIONAL GIG WORKERS BY PROFESSION

Certain changes with respect to the distribution of workers by profession are evident in the latest measurement. As in the previous measurement, the two dominant professions – creative services and multimedia and software development saw a continued, although less pronounced, decline of the relative share of gig workers. In addition to these two professions, the share declined in writing and translation. This differs from the previous measurement when the decline was recorded in sales and marketing. However, these trends lead to a very important conclusion: the increase of the number of gig workers in multimedia and creative services and software development lags behind the increase of the number of gig workers in other professions which, partly, points to the limited capacities for future increase of the number of gig workers in these professions in the observed region of South-Eastern Europe in the given circumstances.

The most recent measurement also gave us new options to observe the workers engaged on the projects at the time of the measurement. Namely, the average engagement of gig workers, defined as a share of gig workers engaged on concrete projects at the time of the measurement relative to the total population totalled 14.4%. This constitutes a 3.5% decline relative to the previous measurement (17.9%) at the regional level. As in the previous measurement, the highest percentage of engagement was recorded in Serbia (22.3%). Same as in previous data collection, the lowest number of workers engaged in projects was recorded in Albania – 8.8%. The percentage of engagement in other countries ranged from 11.1% to 13.9%. Read more ...

According to this criterion, Serbia therefore again holds the first place – 2.5 times is the share of those who worked in the total population higher in Serbia than in Albania. In absolute terms, measured by a number of gig workers, the number of workers engaged at the time of measurement in Serbia, equaled the number of workers who worked in all the other countries in the region summarily, excluding of Albania and Romania. Interestingly, the same number of gig workers was engaged in Albania and in Bosnia and Herzegovina although Albania has 25.5% more work force than Bosnia and Herzegovina.

With respect to the ratio of new workers engaged at the time of the measurement (got their first “gig“) relative to those more experienced, the highest number of new workers is recorded in Hungary – 41 of 100 workers engaged in the previous measurement were new. The situation is similar in Croatia. Romania and Serbia also stand out with respect to the numbers of new gig workers relative to the population of those who are experienced.

REGIONAL GIG WORKERS BY COUNTRY AND PROFESSION

As opposed to the levelled data analysis at regional level, the distribution of certain professions by country varies significantly. If we compare the relative share of a given profession at the concrete country level to the regional average, we may identify comparative advantages emerging at the level of certain countries. Higher relative shares at the level of concrete countries as compared to the regional average point to the fact that a concrete profession is more represented in that country whereby it gains comparative advantage in the regional context. The most recent measurement points to the possible dynamic changes with respect to this dimension of gig work. Read more ...

From the aspect of share of individual professions, a significant absolute increase of the number of gig workers in all professions and across the countries displayed a distinguishing feature. Namely, while the previous measurement saw an increase of the share of data entry and administrative jobs and writing and translation in all the countries relative to the preceding period, the most recent measurement recorded increases in three domains: professional services (all the countries), data entry and administrative jobs (with the exception of Bulgaria) and marketing and sales (with the exception of Montenegro). The fact that the domains of marketing and sales and creative services and multimedia were the most exposed to the negative impacts due to exogenous shock such as the pandemic, makes a significant part of the population in the region very vulnerable to this type of risks. The other three recorded a decline of their share. Judging by a 12-month trend, one may conclude that there is a trend of accelerated growth of the number of gig workers in a less sophisticated activity – data entry and administrative jobs, with the relative decrease of labour offer present in one of the two best paid domains – software development. With respect to the average cost of labour and global trends from the aspect of work force demand, these trends are unfavorable because the demand for them is declining while the demand and earnings in technical professions are on the steady rise.

Several countries in the region recorded explosive growth – exceeding 50% – in the number of gig workers in certain professions. In Albania, as many as four professions recorded high growth rates: 140% in professional services, 110% in sales and marketing, 71.1% in data entry and administrative services and 50.1% in multimedia and creative services. These are also professions that saw a pronounced growth (of more than 50%) at the level of the region as a whole. Croatia, alongside Albania, is the country in which the four professions recorded a high increase: 127.6% in professional services, 108.4% in data entry and administrative services, 69.6% in sales and marketing and 51.6% in writing and translation. Bosnia and Herzegovina and Romania are the countries where these growth performances were recorded in three professions. In Bosnia and Herzegovina these are professional services (80.2%), writing and translation (55.8%) and data entry and administrative services (55.7%), while Romania saw it in professional services (68.4%), data entry and administrative services (60.6%) and sales and marketing (56.2%). The number of gig workers in professional services grew enormously in Montenegro (97.4%), and the number of gig workers in this country increased by 50% also in data entry and administrative services (50.7%). The remaining three countries had a pronounced growth only in professional services, while Hungary did not record this high growth rates at all.

Comparative advantages of the countries in certain professions

The most recent measurement identified significant changes with respect to comparative advantages. The most important finding is that Albania kept the highest values in two domains relative to the regional average and relative to all the other countries in the region: in professional services and sales and marketing, as was the case in the two previous measurements. Albania is unique by this parameter, for no other country has two domains with pronounced advantages relative to the other countries. Furthermore, Albania has a comparative advantage in data entry and software development making it the only country alongside Bulgaria that has registered comparative advantages in four domains – professional services, multimedia and creative services, sales and marketing and writing and translation. Furthermore, writing and translation is a new profession in Bulgaria, although it recorded a relatively modest increase over the past six months (14.7%). However, relative to the number of gig workers in this domain in all the other countries, this constitutes an enormous increase of work force – sufficient to ensure Bulgaria’s advantage in this profession as well.

Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro are the countries with three comparative advantages each. The comparative advantages in Bosnia and Herzegovina are the same as in the previous measurement, although the trends are indicative. Namely, multimedia and creative services have undergone a decrease of advantage as did software development. The advantage in writing and translation are the most pronounced in the region (4.7 pp higher than the regional average). Looking at the trends over the past year, irrespective of the increase of the number of gig workers in software development, the fact is that their number is declining relative to other professions.

Compared to the previous measurement, Montenegro lost its comparative advantage in sales and marketing, while keeping the advantage in the other three domains: professional services, writing and translation and multimedia and creative services. Still, the only more pronounced advantage was observed in writing and translation (4.2 pp).

Comparative advantages in Croatia, Romania, North Macedonia and Serbia each were registered in two domains. In Croatia, these are sales and marketing, and a somewhat more pronounced advantage in writing and translation (3.7 pp relative to the regional average), while the comparative advantage in software development registered in the previous measurement disappeared. In Romania, it is in professional services and a pronounced advantage in software development (4.3 pp). In North Macedonia, the advantage is pronounced in data entry and administrative services (6.2 pp) and only minor in multimedia and creative services. North Macedonia lost its advantage in professional services and sales and marketing registered in the previous measurement. Serbia remains the most specialized country in the region with respect to creative services and multimedia (5.3 pp), and has a (small) advantage in data entry and administrative jobs.

In the regional context, the Hungarian gig workers are markedly specialized only in writing and translation (6.4 pp higher than the regional average), making it the only country with one comparative advantage in the most recent measurement. The advantages recorded in Hungary in data entry and administrative jobs and administrative services, as identified in the previous measurements, no longer appear in the most recent measurement.

REGIONAL GIG WORKERS BY GENDER

Even though men dominate platform work in the region of South-Eastern Europe, women constitute a significant share of work force: 383 of 1,000 gig workers are women. Furthermore, the upward trend of their share persisted in the most recent measurement, albeit at a slower pace. As opposed to the August measurement which saw a 2.1% increase of the share of women, it grew by 1.8% in the total population in the most recent measurement. At the same time, the increase of the share is present in all the countries. The most pronounced increase in the absolute number of gig workers was recorded in Romania with more than 900 new gig workers. In relative terms, the highest increase was recorded in Croatia (6.2 %). Albania and Montenegro are the champions in the share of women (43.1%). North Macedonia recorded more than 40%, as did Bulgaria and Croatia. This makes the observed region one of the global leaders in the domain of female participation, following the world most gender equal countries, USA and Malaysia.

Comparing the ratios of the highest and the least represented professions by gender, the most pronounced inequalities in the distribution are recorded in Serbia. Namely, in Serbia, men are 13.4 times more represented in the most popular profession (creative services and multimedia) relative to the number of women in the least represented profession (professional services).Read more ...

High inequalities were also recorded in Bosnia and Herzegovina where this coefficient totals 10.8. On the other hand, with respect to this ration within female gig worker population, Serbia is also the least egalitarian with six times more women present in the most popular profession (creative services and multimedia) relative to the least numerous profession (professional services).

With regard to the most popular profession, the female gig workers market is dominated by two professions. Namely, female gig workers are the most represented in multimedia and creative services in Bulgaria, Romania, North Macedonia and Serbia. In writing and translation, they are the most represented in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Croatia and Hungary. Albania is an exception with the dominant number of female gig workers in data entry and administrative services. With respect to the male gig workers population, two professions dominate: software development in Albania, Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania, and creative services and multimedia in all the other countries. Interestingly, in Hungary, software development became more populated than multimedia and creative services (which were the dominant profession in the previous measurement) due to the significant increase of the number of gig workers in this profession over the past six months.

HOURLY RATES, IN US$

The average hourly rate recorded a somewhat higher growth than in the previous measurement: 11 cents. However, taking into account the size of changes over the past 12 months, the earnings mostly stagnate. Croatia remains the country with the most expensive work force (24.31$/h), and North Macedonia the one with the cheapest work force (16.13$/h). Still, the increase of hourly rates was somewhat more pronounced in Croatia, leading to increased disparities. Hypothetically speaking, if the Croatian gig worker worked 160 hours in August (the number of possible service hours in regular employment) and earned an average gig workers’ hourly income, relative to the gig workers in North Macedonia having the same engagement and the average North Macedonian rate per hour, he or she earned 1,300$ more.

The countries differ with respect to the requested hourly rate significantly. As opposed to the previous measurement, the most recent one shows that the average hourly rate of above 20$ is recorded in Montenegro. Read more ...

At the individual country level, the decline of hourly rates was recorded in Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina: a modest decline was noted in Albania (0.23 cents/hour), and a marked one in Bosnia and Herzegovina (1.6$/hour). All the other countries recorded the increase of earnings, particularly so Bulgaria and Hungary, and Montenegro partially. Though the other countries recorded an increase of the average rate per hour, it was minimal. The fact that the countries with the highest average rates recorded the highest rise while it was modest or negative in those with the lowest average rates, resulted also in widening of the gap in earnings over the past six months.

The gender convergence form the aspect of earnings, initially identified at the onset of the pandemic, persisted in the most recent measurement. Namely, women in the most recent measurement generated 84% of the average earnings of men – higher than the global average totalling 82%. A female gig worker with an average hourly rate earned 3.4$ less than the average one earned by the male gig worker.

The convergence in earnings is present at regional level, but also in most of the countries in the region. It is only in Bosnia and Herzegovina and North Macedonia that the gap widened as compared to the other countries where it decreased albeit at different rates. Albania and Croatia saw decrease of differences in the requested price of work somewhat more pronouncedly, while this was more moderate in the other countries. Interestingly, Albania is in the group of countries with a markedly high level of equality with respect to price of work: female gig workers in Albania earn as much as 92.3% of the average price of hourly work of the male gig workers. For the sake of comparison, in Croatia where the differences are the most pronounced, female gig workers earn only 78% of the average hourly wage of male gig workers.

_____________________________________________________

Recommended citation: Anđelković, B., Jakobi, T., Ivanović, V., Kalinić, Z. & Radonjić, Lj. (2022). Gigmetar Region, February 2022, Public Policy Research Center, http://gigmetar.publicpolicy.rs/en/serbia-2022-1/.

PREVIOUS REPORTS

HOW GIGMETAR WORKS

GigmetarTM is the first instrument that describes the geography of digital work in Serbia and the region in terms of gender, income, and most common occupations. It is a result of the efforts made by the Public Policy Research Centre (CENTAR) to shed more light on the work on online platforms.

ABOUT US

The Public Policy Research Centre (CENTAR) is a team of innovative researchers and digital enthusiasts investigating the future of work and development of the digital economy in Serbia and South-East Europe.

Contact: gigmetar@publicpolicy.rs