GIG WORKERS IN THE REGION

Gigmetar looks at developments in the gig communities of Serbia and South-Eastern Europe: Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, North Macedonia, Albania, Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Croatia. This index seeks to identify the structural aspects of the gig labour market and the similarities and differences between the region’s gig workers, as well as to reveal trends and evolving changes.

Below are the findings of CENTAR’s research done in February 2021.

LEADING PLATFORMS

Upwork, Freelancer, and Guru led the field in South-Eastern Europe by number of registered gig workers, together exceeding 100,000 freelancers from the region in the latest measurement. The figure below shows the relative ratios between gig workers registered on the three platforms. Relative to the previous two surveys (October 2020 and May 2020), the order of these marketplaces on the leader board remained unchanged. Whilst Upwork remained dominant, with a market share of 39 percent, changes were registered in the relative shares of freelancers from individual countries. Upwork also lost more than 2 percent of market share to Guru, which emerged as the second largest platform in the region, even though it enjoyed only the slimmest of leads over Freelancer.Read more ...

Nevertheless, Upwork retained the top position in seven of the nine countries observed, namely Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Albania, Croatia, and Bulgaria, and registered large market shares even in countries where it did not lead the field, Romania (at 26.86 percent) and Hungary (30.18 percent). This measurement did, however, see a slight fall in its market shares in these countries, by 3.81 percentage points (pp) in Hungary and a slightly lower 2.19 pp in Romania. The remaining countries fell into two camps in terms of Upwork’s performance. In Serbia, Croatia, and Albania, Upwork increased its market share in the latest survey relative to all previous measurements. By contrast, in Bosnia and Herzegovina the platform has been seeing a continuous decline, whereas in Macedonia, Montenegro, and Bulgaria, after growing in October 2020 relative to May 2020, Upwork’s market share fell in the latest survey, by as much as 15 pp in Macedonia, close to 4 pp in Bulgaria, and nearly 3 pp in Montenegro.

Conclusions as to key trends remain valid even though multiple factors may have affected the accuracy of these estimates. Firstly, there has been a change to the methodology of how gig workers are presented on the various platforms, and, secondly, the same gig workers may have had multiple profiles on different platforms. The latter issue is not as significant, since platforms have an interest in presenting only active workers available to potential employers, and therefore update their gig worker databases fairly regularly. As such, even though some workers have profiles open on more than one platform, this does not affect estimates of the actually available workforce, since all those workers are active. That being said, duplicate or multiple profiles have a bearing on how accurately the true number of gig workers in the region can be estimated.

To assess the structural characteristics of the gig labour market, Gigmetar looked at the most commonly used platform in seven of the region’s nine countries, which also had a major presence in the remaining two, Romania and Hungary. 

SHARE OF GIG WORKERS BY COUNTRY AS % OF REGIONAL TOTAL

February’s findings revealed Serbia remained the country with the largest gig workforce in the sample, being home to some one-quarter of all of the region’s freelancers. The decline registered in October 2020 was halted and reversed, with Serbia recording a slight increase of close to 3 pp. By contrast, Romania, the second-largest country by this measure, saw its share contract slightly by some 1.5 percent after registering large-scale growth from May to October 2020. Even though a large proportion of the gig workforce was still based in Bulgaria, its share continued to decline to 10.4 percent. In general, the relatively limited increases in shares recorded in this measurement by three countries – Serbia, Albania, and Bosnia and Herzegovina – were accompanied by modest contractions in the remaining six.

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

To ensure a fair assessment of the state of the gig market and eliminate the impact of large differences in size between the countries observed, the figure below shows the relative numbers of gig workers relative to country population. North Macedonia came first, with its freelancer population, according to this measure, greater by 42 pp than second-ranked Serbia. Albania and Montenegro also recorded significant ratios, each with over 100 gig workers per 100,000 inhabitants, even though the workforces in both countries were relatively small. Just how well developed gig work was in North Macedonia was best illustrated by the fact that this country had 9.15 times more platform workers than Hungary, where the figure was lowest at no more than 25 gig workers per 100,000 population.Read more ...

It ought to be noted, however, that in the latest measurement Serbia was ahead of all other countries by a wide margin when looking only at gig workers who had work at the time of the survey. For instance, there were nearly twice as many employed freelancers in Serbia as in Romania, a country with a far larger population, and more than three times as many as in North Macedonia, which registered the highest ratio of gig workers to the general population.

REGIONAL GIG WORKERS BY PROFESSION

The proportions of the overall pool of the region’s gig workers by occupation remained nearly identical to both the May and the October survey. Creative and multimedia and software dev and tech accounted for 61.5 percent of the workforce. By contrast, the two least popular occupations, sales and marketing support and professional services, recorded an aggregate share of 13.7 percent. It seems that the current size of the market and the limited influx of new entrants mean the differences in relative shares between occupations can change only incrementally over time.

A look at the proportion of freelancers in actual employment at the time of the survey in the total gig workforce revealed some interesting differences between occupations. This measure showed creative and multimedia freelancers had access to significantly more work, with those in writing and translation coming second. Read more ... By contrast, software dev and tech saw much lower engagement rates, with other occupations recording only slight differences. This finding seems particularly significant as it goes some way towards showing the competitiveness and quality of the region’s creative and multimedia and writing and translation workforce, since it was these occupations that registered a drop in demand for work over the past year, by 1.2 pp in creative and multimedia and 1.9 in writing and translation.

REGIONAL GIG WORKERS BY COUNTRY AND PROFESSION

In contrast to the balanced regional findings, the shares of individual occupations by country varied greatly. Comparing the relative share of each occupation in the entire region with the corresponding figures for the countries revealed the comparative advantages enjoyed by each. Above-average relative shares for a particular country mean a profession is over-represented there, giving the nation a comparative advantage at the regional level.Read more ...

In the latest measurement, Albania registered the highest proportion of sales and marketing support workers, both when compared to the regional average and relative to the shares of gig workers in this occupation in other countries. Besides, Albania also recorded a significant comparative advantage in software dev and tech and a modest one in professional services, as well as enjoying a slight edge in clerical and data entry. The largest proportion of Albania’s freelancers were active in software dev and tech, a unique position in the region as the creative and multimedia category was dominant in all other countries, albeit to differing extents.

Creative and multimedia was the leading occupation in all other countries, with the exception of Hungary, where it was writing and translation, which also conferred a substantial comparative advantage on Hungary. This country’s freelancers also enjoyed a slight comparative advantage in professional services (0.9 percent), whilst Hungary’s edge in clerical and data entry, identified in the previous survey, has disappeared. Hungary had a comparative advantage in only two occupations, a situation also found in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, and Serbia.

Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, and Croatia showed the lowest degree of specialisation, since they had no occupations with shares higher than in other countries of the region or substantially deviating from the regional average. Bulgarian gig workers were over-represented in sales and marketing support (by 2.7 pp) and writing and translation (3.4 pp). this was a major difference when compared with the previous measurement, since Bulgaria lost its comparative advantage in three of four professions, namely professional services, creative and multimedia, and software dev and tech, but gained one in writing and translation. By contrast, freelancers based in Bosnia and Herzegovina enjoyed a partial edge in creative and multimedia (3.3 pp) and a slightly more pronounced one in software dev and tech (4.1 pp). This situation remained unchanged relative to the previous survey.

Serbia enjoyed a decisive comparative advantage over the region in creative and multimedia (where it was over-represented by 5.4 pp), as well as more modest ones in clerical and data entry (1.6 pp). Even though its market was small in absolute terms, Montenegro registered a significant comparative advantage in professional services (3.5 pp) and a moderate one in writing and translation (3.5 pp), as well as a miniscule edge (0.1 pp) in sales and marketing support. This aspect saw major changes, with the share of software dev and tech freelancers, an occupation in which Montenegro had had a comparative advantage in the previous measurement, fell to below the regional average in February 2021.

Croatian gig workers were over-represented relative to the regional average in software dev and tech (0.5 pp) and writing and translation (3.4 pp), with slight advantages emerging since the previous measurement in sales and marketing support (0.3 pp) and creative and multimedia (0.1 pp). Freelancers based in Romania, who made up the largest overall gig workforce across all platforms and came first in absolute numbers on Upwork, enjoyed a comparative advantage only in software dev and tech (5.4 percent), with professional services (0.2 pp) and writing and translation (0.1) also slightly over-represented.

The North Macedonian market revealed a significant comparative advantage in clerical and data entry (5.5 pp), but this was not as dominant as in the previous survey, when the share of this occupation had been nearly twice as high as regionally. Creative and multimedia was another sector in which North Macedonia had an edge (1.5 pp), with a slight advantage also seen in marketing and sales support (0.4 pp). As with Serbia, there were no changes in these comparative advantages relative to the previous measurement.

This assessment of comparative advantages revealed diverging trends in gig workforce development across the region and the extent of specialisation in particular markets. Here, Croatia registered the least deviation from the regional average, meaning its gig sector was the least specialised. Conversely, the Albanian gig workforce showed the highest degree of specialisation as its structure was the least similar to the regional average. These findings were similar to those identified in October 2020, but in this survey Croatia’s performance was closest to the general state of play in the region.

REGIONAL GIG WORKERS BY GENDER

In this sample, platform work was dominated by men: for every 20 gig workers, 13 were male. This means there has been a slight increase in the share of men, primarily due to the significantly larger proportion of men amongst new entrants. Men accounted for more than one-half of the platform workforce in each of the region’s countries, but some differences were nonetheless apparent. Three countries that had in excess of 40 percent of female freelancers in their workforces in the previous survey – Bulgaria, Hungary, and Serbia – were found to have much lower shares in February 2021, at some 35 percent on average. Conversely, the gender breakdown of the Bosnia-Herzegovina workforce has remained the least well balanced, with only 1 of every 4 gig workers there being women. In another difference from the previous measurement, Montenegro was the only country where the female freelancer population stood at above 40 percent, although this could well have been caused by a change in methodology, given the tiny number of Montenegro’s gig workers, who number 16 times fewer than Serbia’s and account for just under 2 percent of the total regional gig workforce. Interestingly, the gender structures of the various countries’ workforces have increasingly been converging across the region.Read more ...

It was worthwhile to examine the occupations in which the latest measurement found women were the most numerous. In Albania, most women from the sample were active in creative and multimedia (21.5 percent), in contrast to software dev and tech, as the case had been in October 2020. Moreover, Albania also registered the closest balance in terms of women’s representation in most occupations save professional services (where the gig workforce was also the least numerous). Much higher proportions of women were active in creative and multimedia in Bosnia and Herzegovina (34.1 percent), Bulgaria (34.7 percent), Montenegro (33.9 percent), and North Macedonia (30.6 percent), with Serbia seeing by far the highest share of 37.6 percent. Moreover, Hungary, Croatia, and Romania all had fairly similar shares of women freelancers in two occupations, creative and multimedia and writing and translation. Croatia has also joined this club since the previous measurement. It is interesting to note that women were the least represented in software dev and tech and professional services in all countries save Albania and Romania.

Men dominated two occupations in across the region. Albania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Montenegro, and Romania had the largest populations of male gig workers in software dev and tech. The other primarily male occupation was creative and multimedia, where men were dominant in the remaining countries. These two occupations were ranked either first or second across the region by their proportions of men. The sole exception was provided by Croatia, where both genders were equally represented, at slightly above 37 percent. The fewest men in all of the region’s countries worked in professional services, with the exception of Montenegro, where the smallest number of male freelancers did clerical and data entry work. In general, men were also under-represented in writing and translation and sales and marketing support in all of the region’s countries, with some national differences observable.

HOURLY RATES, IN US$

The hourly rates demanded by gig workers fell slightly, by close to US$ 1, in comparison with October 2020. Conversely, in contrast to both the May 2020 and October 2020 surveys, Croatia was found to have the highest average labour costs, which were greater by as much as 56.8 percent relative to North Macedonia, the country with by far the cheapest labour in the region where hourly rates went down to below 80 percent of the regional average in this survey. Average hourly rates of more than US$ 20 were achieved only in countries of the region that are EU member states, whilst Montenegro had the highest rates of non-EU members of close to US$ 20.

The gender gap in hourly rates remained very pronounced throughout the region, even though the countries exhibited significant differences. Read more ... The gap was by far the widest in Croatia, where men earned 34.5 percent more than women, and the narrowest in Albania, where the difference, at 8.7 percent, was more than four times lower than in Croatia. Bosnia and Herzegovina came second for gender equality with a gap of 17.5 percent, twice as wide as that of Albania. The Croatian gap, even though significant, was no wider than registered in either the May 2020 or the October 2020 survey.

The year-on-year impact of the pandemic was surprisingly positive and resulted in further convergence, albeit a minor one, of hourly rates commanded by men and women. This was the first measurement in which the average hourly rate demanded by women exceeded 80 percent of the rate for men (at 81.2 percent). This halted the initial adverse effect of the pandemic on the gender income gap first seen in May 2020 and continuing through October 2020.

The gap between men and women appears more pronounced if a comparison is made between male and female freelancers with experience, in other words of the average (official) hourly rates of gig workers of both genders actively employed at the time of the measurement. In this category, women were able to earn nearly US$ 6 less per hour. The income premium commanded by male freelancers with experience was not caused only by their access to better paid jobs and occupations, but also by the fact that women did gig work only occasionally and/or to supplement other income, which prevented them from growing their gig careers, in turn limiting their opportunities to do better paid and more challenging jobs and reducing their average incomes.

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