GIG WORKERS IN THE REGION
In the last decade, the world, along with numerous problems and global challenges – from the latest one caused by the war in Ukraine, the still present consequences caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, climate change and economic crises – experienced an unprecedented growth of digital labor markets. Disruptive changes brought about by the rise of information and communication technologies generated large-scale innovations that stimulated fundamental changes in the field of work and worker’s qualifications – although according to the World Bank it is a “quiet revolution”, it is also quite radical – in the world, according to some estimates, around 163 million gig workers are active.
This created completely new opportunities for business, social progress, growth in the well-being of individuals and their freedoms. Numerous challenges have also emerged: in the domain of fairness and opportunities for dignified work, job security in the newly created environment, and challenges related to a poorly or generally unregulated work environment. Further, there has been an increasingly pronounced polarization between developed and underdeveloped countries, uneven distribution of opportunities for digital work between urban centers and rural areas, and unequal distribution of income. Considering that the positive aspects dominate when it comes to the digital labor market, estimates are that the global market for such labor will reach a value of US$ 72.2 billion by 2026, growing 21.3% per year.
The regional edition of Gigmetar was created with the aim of monitoring development in the digital labor market in Southeast Europe, which includes two countries that stand out in global statistics when it comes to the concentration and number of talent in the field of gig work – Romania and Serbia. According to the number of gig workers relative to the number of inhabitants, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina also have a very dynamic digital labor market.
The goal of the Gigmetar project is to determine the systemic characteristics of the gig worker market in the Southeast European region, their similarities and differences, as well as to identify the key regional trends and changes that are occurring over time. The latest measurement points to the return of a trend that has been present since Gigmetar has been created, and which was interrupted in the previous year: namely, the strong expansion of the digital labor market that was present in previous years has continued! In the latest measurement, the market, measured by the population of registered gig workers on the three most popular platforms in the region, Freelancer, Upwork and Guru, grew by more than a quarter (26.4%), which is a huge leap compared to the one-year stagnation in the previous two measurements.
A large increase in the number of gig workers was recorded on all three platforms – Freelancer (49.2%), Guru (44.4%) and Upwork (12.6%).
In all countries, an increase in the number of workers was recorded on all platforms, except for Guru, where the number of workers from Bulgaria and Romania declined.
Upwork remained the dominant platform, but with a decrease in relative importance – it is dominant in 7 out of 9 countries, and experienced a decline in market share of 5.5%.
The highest growth on all platforms was recorded in Hungary – the population increased by 58.3%.
The trend of decreasing the relative number of gig workers in the field of software development and multimedia and creative services continued in all countries, while the most dynamic growth in most countries of the region was recorded in the field of writing and translation (4 out of 9 observed countries).
Serbia has the most active gig population – at the time of measurement, 20.2% of the total population of gig workers worked.
A decrease in the share of women was recorded in all countries of the region, but it is still above the world average – Albania (41.3%) and North Macedonia (40.1%) have the largest share of women in the region.
The trend of a slight increase in wages at the regional level and the reduction of the gender gap continued – women on average earn 85.3% of men’s wages.
The leading global platforms in Southeast Europe in terms of the number of registered gig workers are Upwork, Freelancer and Guru. In the latest measurement 130,612 workers were registered in the observed 9 countries of the region.
Extensive growth in the population of gig workers – the population has increased by more than ¼ (26.4%), lead to the increase of the number of gig workers on all platforms and in all countries has. The exceptions are Bulgaria and Romania, where the total number of workers also increased, but on one platform (Guru) it declined. Another significant change relates to the different intensity of growth, which had consequences for the market shares of individual platforms.
In the distribution of gig work, the dominant regional position is still held by Upwork with a market share of 45%. Freelancer and Guru follow with 30.6% and 24.4%. Although the latest measurement did not bring significant changes when it comes to the market shares of the three observed platforms, there were still some shifts. Upwork continues to dominate and it is the most popular platform (in 7 out of 9 countries), which is a significant change compared to the previous measurement where it was the most represented platform in all countries. Read more ...
SHARE OF GIG WORKERS BY COUNTRY AS % OF REGIONAL TOTAL
The systemic characteristics of the gig work market, which are related to their geographical dispersion, professions, gender, income and related distributions, were observed in relation to the dominant platform in the region – in according to the latest measurement, the most represented in 7 out of 9 countries, but also the largest in terms of number of workers – accounting for 45% of the total number of gig workers. Upwork maintained its dominant position among the three most popular digital platforms in the region, but with a relatively significant decline of its market share – 5.5 pp. However, the decline in Upwork’s share is not the result of a decrease in the population of gig workers on it, but the fact that on the other two platforms the number of gig workers increased to a much greater extent. That’s a particularly significant result given the business challenges Upwork faces.
Even in the most recent measurement, the dominant growth in the number of gig workers came from countries that have a smaller population of gig workers. The proof of this is that in the countries where their population is the most numerous – in Serbia and Romania, there was a further decrease in the relative participation at the regional level. It declined to 43.6% in these two countries. Read more ...
NUMBER OF GIG WORKERS PER 100,000 POPULATION, BY COUNTRY
In order to compare the development of the gig market as accurately as possible, and in order to neutralize the difference in the size of the countries, the following graph shows the relative number of gig workers in relation to the size of the country, i.e. the number of inhabitants. Contrary to the previous measurement, when Bosnia and Herzegovina recorded a decrease in the number of gig workers according to this indicator, in the latest measurement, an increase was recorded in all countries. However, growth was not evenly distributed across countries.
Largest increase in the number of gig workers per capita is recorded in Albania, while North Macedonia maintained the dominant position in the region according to this indicator (331 gig workers).
In the most recent measurement, Albania is the second country in the region in terms of the relative number of gig population thanks to the growth of this indicator by 22% – with 222 gig workers/100,000 inhabitants, which pushed Serbia to the third/fourth place, which has 208 gig workers/100,000 inhabitants, as much as Montenegro. Other countries in the region, with the exception of Bosnia and Herzegovina to some extent, have a much smaller population of gig workers.
REGIONAL GIG WORKERS BY PROFESSION
In the latest measurement, there were certain changes when it comes to the distribution of workers by individual professions. In the two dominant areas – creative services and multimedia and software development, there was a further decline in the relative participation of gig workers, and a further decline in the share was recorded in the domain of professional services. Although the decline in the share is relatively small – slightly more than 1 pp and 0.7 pp respectively, a similar trend was recorded in the previous two measurements, which has significant implications for the observed further relative decrease of the gig population in the most lucrative jobs, i.e. jobs that are the best paid on a global level. This may be a consequence of both the limited supply of this labor force in the observed region, as well as the trends on the domestic labor markets, where the demand, especially in the field of software development, is high.
In the latest measurement, there were also some changes when it comes to the workers who were working on the projects at the time of the measurement. Namely, the average employment of gig workers, which we define as the percentage of gig workers who worked on specific projects at the time of measurement in relation to the total population, was 15.4%, which is an increase of 1 pp compared to the previous measurement. However, in order to neutralize the effect of seasonality, by observing this value in relation to the same period last year – when the average employment was 17.9% at the regional level, we come to the conclusion that in the previous year the number of active gig workers decreased (by 2 ,5 pp), i.e. population of gig workers who were working at the time of measurement. The reason for this is, in part, the large number of new gig workers who find it harder to find jobs. Read more ...
REGIONAL GIG WORKERS BY COUNTRY AND PROFESSION
When we observe the distribution of individual professions by country, it varies significantly. If we compare the relative share that a certain profession has at the level of a specific country with the average that profession has at the level of the region, it is possible to identify comparative advantages that appear at the level of certain countries. Higher relative shares at the level of specific countries compared to the regional average indicate the fact that a specific profession is more represented in that country, which gives that country a comparative advantage in the regional context.Read more ...
REGIONAL GIG WORKERS BY GENDER
The latest measurement brings a change in the trend when it comes to the gender structure of the digital labor market. There has been a decline in the share of female gig workers and now there are 358 women for every 1000 gig workers. The growth trend that had been present in the previous year and a half is now reversed. In addition, in the most recent measurement, the number of female gig workers decreased in two countries: in Croatia the decrease was more pronounced (9.2%), while in Bosnia and Herzegovina it was many times smaller (2%). In contrast, two countries recorded a large growth in the population of female gig workers: Hungary (16.5%) and North Macedonia (14.9%). In all other countries, a much more modest (single digit) growth of the female gig population was recorded. Despite the growth recorded in 7 out of 9 observed countries, their relative decline was recorded in all countries, and the most pronounced was in Montenegro (4.7 pp) and Hungary (4.1 pp). Even Hungary, where there was a significant increase in the number of new female gig workers, failed to improve the gender structure, because the growth in the number of gig workers was much higher. Despite the negative trend, with an average share of female gig workers of 35.8% in the total gig population, the observed region is still one of the leaders in the world in terms of the participation of gig workers.
It is interesting to note that only in creative services and multimedia and software development male gig workers are more numerous than female gig workers in all countries. On the other hand, in the fields of data entry and administrative services (Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia and North Macedonia) and writing and translation (Albania, Montenegro, Romania and North Macedonia) there are more gig workers in 4 countries each, while in the case of professional services and marketing and sales, this is the case in 2 countries each.Read more ...
HOURLY RATES, IN US$
Although the average labor price recorded an increase of 26 cents per hour, which is an acceleration compared to the previous measurement. However, given that it only increased by 1.25%, it is more correct to state that wages are largely stagnant over the past two years. The changes are though very different when observed at the level of individual countries. Namely, Croatia is no longer the country with the most expensive workforce ($23.7/h), but Hungary ($23.8/h). This is the result of two factors: a smaller part due to the drop in the average labor price in Croatia and a larger part due to the increase in wages in Hungary. North Macedonia not only remained the country with the cheapest labor force in the region on average, but it is one of the 3 countries where the average hourly labor price has fallen (apart from the mentioned Croatia, this is also the case with Bulgaria). How big the differences are is best evidenced by the fact that a gig worker from Hungary works half a month to achieve the average monthly salary (measured according to the number of possible working hours in a regular employment relationship and the average price of gig work per hour in Hungary) earned by a gig worker from North Macedonia. Read more ...
Recommended citation: Anđelković, B., Jakobi, T., Ivanović, V., Kalinić, Z. & Radonjić, Lj. (2022). Gigmetar Region, October 2022, Public Policy Research Center, http://gigmetar.publicpolicy.rs/en/region-en-2022-2/.
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.
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.