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 and Herzegovina, and Croatia. This index seeks to identify the structural aspects of the gig labour market and the similarities and differences between the gig workers in the region, as well as to identify trends and evolving changes. The most recent measurement (August 2021) indicates that the gig workers market in the region is stagnating following the strong expansion recorded in the previous years – the number of gig workers is slightly decreasing because the population of the registered gig workers declined by 2.15 percent.

LEADING PLATFORMS

The leading global platforms in South-Eastern Europe by number of registered gig workers are Upwork, Freelancer and Guru, where the most recent measurement registered 104,988 freelancers in the nine countries in the region. While the previous measurements did not show significant changes with respect to share of the three leading platforms, the most recent one shows a change of order thereof. Namely, the number of active gig workers on Freelancer decreased by almost one-fifth (17.1 percent). This is probably the result of several factors: changes of the methodology by which the platforms show active gig workers, as well as the potentially lesser activity of Freelancer relative to the other platforms. As opposed to the previous measurement where Guru recorded a more significant increase, this time it was barely noticeable (0.6 percent), with the dominant platform in this part of Europe – Upwork – additionally solidifying its position. The increase of active freelancers on Upwork was significant in absolute and relative terms – almost 3,000 new freelancers and the 7.1 percent growth relative to the previous measurement. These trends brought about significant changes in the market morphology – at the moment, the share of Upwork on the market is almost 43 percent, Freelancer fell to 25 percent, while Guru represents the second dominant player on the platform market with 32.3 percent. Contrary to the previous measurement, today Guru holds a significantly stronger position relative to Freelancer.Read more ...

Compared to the other platforms, Upwork registered the highest increase of active freelancers over the past six months. Still, this did not impact on the change of its position in the countries observed. As in the February measurement, Upwork remained the leading platform in seven of the nine observed countries (Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Albania, Croatia and Bulgaria).

The growth of Upwork was very remarkable in some of them – it was almost 40% percent in Bosnia and Herzegovina. With minor differences, the other countries, recorded modest growth.

As opposed to that and relative to the other platforms, Upwork in Romania and Hungary maintained their 3rd and 2nd position respectively. However, also in these two countries its market share is very significant and increased by 3 percent point in case of Romania and 1.7 percent point in Hungary. This is contrary to the results from February when the decrease of Upwork share was recorded in these two countries only.

Other factors were taken into account with respect to the accuracy of our assessments. The first refers to the change of methodology of presentation of 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 relevant because the platforms seek to present only those workers who are truly available to potential employers, thus updating their databases of gig workers relatively regularly. So, although a certain number of gig workers maintains profiles on several platforms, this does not affect the assessments of realistically available work force as they are active workers. Nevertheless, the existence of double or multiple profiles affects the accuracy of assessment of the true number of gig workers in the region. On the other hand, the change of methodology of presentation of active gig workers on Freelancer is completely obvious, as all the countries show a decrease of their number. If the decrease of the number of gig workers on Freelancer is the result of a stricter criteria referring to activity (labour engagement on platforms, this makes the estimated real number of gig workers on the leading platforms more accurate. 

SHARE OF GIG WORKERS BY COUNTRY AS % OF REGIONAL TOTAL

The systemic characteristics on the gig labour market related to their geographic dispersion, professions, gender, income and the related distributions are observed relative to the leading platform – by the number of countries (7 of 9), and the total number of gig workers (42.7 percent) alike.
According to the latest measurement results, almost one half of all active gig workers are located on the leading platform (47.64 percent) in two countries in the region – Serbia and Romania. Also, the upward trend of the number of gig workers is accelerated (7.1 percent) relative to February when the increase recorded was only 3 percent. Serbia is the dominant destination of Upwork gig workers: it is the location of more than ¼ of them relative to the total number of active Upwork gig workers in the region.
The trend of increase of the number of gig workers by country relative to the previous measurement should be observed from two aspects: within the countries relative to the previous measurement and as a share of the concrete country relative to the gig worker population in the region. Read more ...

With respect to the trends, almost all the countries record increase – from 0.3 percent in Hungary and 0.6 percent in Serbia to the incredible almost 40 percent in Bosnia and Herzegovina (39.3 percent). A very high increase was recorded in Montenegro with 20.4 percent. Notably expressed increase was also recorded in Croatia (12 percent), North Macedonia (8.4 percent) and Albania (6.6 percent), as well as Romania – 5.6 percent. The exception is only Bulgaria that lost 0.1 percent of gig workers.

On the other hand, the share of countries in the total number of gig workers in the region changed relative to the previous measurement. Serbia, specifically, recorded the biggest decrease in the share of gig workers in the region (1.64 p.p.), while the decrease of share of other countries is modest – from 0.7 p.p. in Bulgaria, 0.4 p.p. in Hungary, 0.3 percent in Romania and practically remained the same for Albania (0.05 p.p.). As opposed to that, slight increase was recorded in North Macedonia (0.1 p.p.), Montenegro (0.2 p.p.), Croatia (0.3 p.p.), while a huge increase of the number of gig workers in Bosnia resulted in notable growth of its share in the gig population in the region – by 2.4 percent points. 

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

In order for the comparison of the development of gig market to be as accurate as possible and to neutralize the difference in the size of the countries, the below graph shows the relative number of gig workers as compared to the size of the country i.e., the number of inhabitants. North Macedonia continues to lead with 249 gig workers at 100,000 inhabitants or 87 more than Serbia which comes second with 162 gig workers. The fact that North Macedonia represents a “hotspot“ economy from the aspect of gig work – with the number of gig workers almost ten times higher than in the last ranking Hungary – where there are only 25 gig workers work at 100,000 inhabitants. . A significantly higher share is that of Albania and Montenegro, although the number of gig workers in them is relatively small.
With the exception of Bulgaria and Hungary which stagnate, all the countries record the rise in the number of gig workers as per this criterion. Thus, Bosnia and Herzegovina has 37 gig workers more relative to the previous measurement; Montenegro has 27 more relative to the previous measurement and North Macedonia 19 gig workers more. More modest changes were recorded in Albania (9) and Croatia (8), followed by Romania (2) and Serbia (1), while their number in Hungary remained practically the same.

REGIONAL GIG WORKERS BY PROFESSION

The newest measurement brought the changes related to the distribution of freelancers by certain professions. The relative share of gig workers in the two dominant sectors – creative services and multimedia and software development – dropped by almost 4 percentage points, so they now make just below 58 percent of the total number of gig workers in these two professions. In addition to the drop in these two professions – creative services and multimedia of 1.5 percent and software development for 2.4 percent, the drop of 1.1 percent was also recorded in sales and marketing. On the other hand, there was a slight increase of the share of gig workers in minimum one of the represented areas – professional services by 0,3 percent. A more notable increase of the share was recorded in administrative services and data entry and writing and translation: by 2.1 percent and 2.6 percent respectively. Though relatively small, the size of the changes is not insignificant. Namely, these trends indicate that the online labour market in South-Eastern Europe is becoming more attractive for the population with less sophisticated skills set. The negative aspect of such development is that these professions/skills are less paid, and so the total market value, measured by the total generated income, is lower.

The most recent measurement provided new opportunities to observe the gig workers working on the projects at the time of measurement. Namely, the average employment of gig workers defined as the percentage of gig workers measured relative to the total population working on concrete projects at the time of measurement was 17.9 percent. The highest engagement percent was recorded in Serbia (23.8 percent), with the lowest number of active freelancers at the time of measurement – 10.4 percent – in Albania.Read more ...

With respect to the ratio between the new gig workers and those who are experienced, Albania has the highest employment – one new freelancer managed to find his/her first job in two experienced Albanian gig workers, while this ratio was one in five in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia. With respect to other professions, the larges number of freelancers in each of the countries came from multimedia and creative services as expected given the size of this population. Writing and translation and software development come second as the number of freelancers engaged on the projects was almost identical.

REGIONAL GIG WORKERS BY COUNTRY AND PROFESSION

Contrary to the balanced analysis of data at the regional level, distribution of certain occupations by country varies significantly. If one compares the relative share of a given occupation at the level of a concrete country with the regional average, one can identify comparative advantages emerging at the level of certain countries. Higher relative shares at the level of concrete countries compared to the regional average indicate that a concrete profession is more represented in that country whereby it gains a comparative advantage in the regional context. The latest measurement points to the possible dynamic changes when this aspect of gig labour market is taken into account.Read more ...

Data entry and administrative jobs and writing and translation recorded linear growth and the relative shares increased in all the countries relative to the previous period. As opposed to the increased appeal of these two occupations, there are also those that record negative trends and in all the countries: in sales and marketing and in software development. In particular in the software development domain, this might be the result of auspicious circumstances on the traditional labour market whereby the appeal of gig jobs in this occupation drops automatically. As opposed to the above mentioned occupations, the remaining two recorded mixed trends. In professional services, the decrease of relative share was recorded in Bulgaria, Montenegro and Croatia, while growth was recorded in other countries – from 0.2 p.p. in Serbia to 0.9 p.p. in North Macedonia. Multimedia and creative services have shown different trends in different countries: the modest growth is recorded in Montenegro (1.8 p.p.) and Hungary (0.6 p.p.), while all other countries have experienced fall – ranging from 0.9 p.p. in Bosnia and Herzegovina to 2.4 p.p. in Bulgaria and North Macedonia.

The latest measurement showed significant changes with respect to comparative advantages discussed. Albania has the highest values in the two areas relative to the regional average and to all the other countries in the region – these are professional services – a new area, and sales and marketing, as was the case in the previous measurement. It is unique assessed against this characteristic, as no other country has two areas of pronounced advantages relative to the other countries. Further to that, Albania has a more significant advantage also in software development (2.2 p.p. relative to the regional average), although a decrease is evident here (1.4 p.p.), while the comparative advantage in data entry and administrative services increased notably relative to the previous measurement (as much as 4.1 p.p.). An even more significant change refers to the fact that the latest measurement shows a dominant percentage of gig workers in Albania coming from multimedia and creative services, whereby the software development dropped to the second position assessed against the number of workers. This makes multimedia and creative services dominant in all the countries in the region without exception.

Looking at all the professions, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Montenegro and Croatia show the lowest level of specialiazation as there are no professions with the highest share in them relative to the other countries in the region or that significantly deviate relative to the regional average. Bosnia and Herzegovina have the most pronounced comparative advantage in multimedia and creative services (3.8 p.p. higher than the regional average), with a more modest comparative average present also in software development (1.8 p.p.) and writing and translation (1.2 p.p.). Furthermore, the share of software development recorded quite a decline relative to the February measurement – as high as 4.7 p.p..

The number of gig workers in sales and marketing (2.5 p.p.) and writing and translation (3.3 p.p.) is higher in Bulgaria relative to the regional average (although a slight decrease of this advantage was recorded). Professional services are a new area where Bulgaria shows comparative advantage, with the share of freelancers in them being 0.4 p.p. above the regional average. Relative to the previous measurement, the increase was recorded in data entry and administrative jobs and writing and translation, at the expense of the other four occupations whose shares have dropped.

The dominant occupation of gig workers in all the other countries is multimedia and creative services, with the exception of workers from Hungary, where writing and translation are in the lead. It is in this domain that Hungary shows a pronounced comparative advantage. Gig workers from Hungary have a slight advantage also in professional services (0.9 p.p.). The advantage in administrative services and data entry, identified in the previous measurement, has disappeared.

Hungary recorded a significant decrease of the share of gig workers in software development relative to the previous measurement (5 p.p.) and a less pronounced decrease in sales and marketing (1.4 p.p.). The highest increase was recorded in data entry (2.8 p.p.) and writing and translation (2.6 p.p.), with minor changes in the other two professions. Although the occupation with the greatest concentration of gig workers changed relative to the previous measurement –writing and translation in February gave way to creative services and multimedia in the latest measurement – the comparative advantage in writing and translation is still there: there are 7.3 p.p. more workers in this area in Hungary relative to the regional average.

Though with notably smallest population of gig workers, Montenegro records comparative advantages in as many as four areas. However, with the exception of writing and transltion where it shows a more pronounced advantage (2.7 p.p.), the advantages in sales and marketing (1.1 p.p.), professional services (0.6 p.p.) and multimedia and creative services (0.3 p.p.) are much more modest. In addition, restructuring of the Montenegrin gig labour market inclined more towards data entry and administrative services (1.9 p.p.), multimedia and creative services and writing and translation where 1.8 p.p. growth was recorded relative to the previous measurement and at the expense of the other three occupations. The most important novelty is loss of pronounced comparative advantage in professional services relative to the previous measurement. In addition, continuous decrease of the share of gig workers in software development continued – as high as 2.7 percentage points in the latest measurement.

With respect to creative services and multimedia, Croatia has an ideal position in the region – the share in the regional breakdown is identical (37.7 p.p.). Interestingly, this country shows comparative advantages in sales and marketing (1.3 p.p.), software development (1.2 p.p.) and more pronounced in writing and translation (2.9 p.p.). It thus solidified its position with respect to sales and marketing and software development, as well as a slight decrease of advantage in writing and translation (0.5 p.p.) relative to the previous measurement. However, looking at the distribution of professions in Croatia, data entry and administrative services and writing and translation recorded growth relative to the other four professions.

Romania with the second most numerous population of gig workers in the region (after Serbia) became a regional leader in software development. In addition to the above mentioned comparative advantage, professional services (0.5 p.p.) and writing and translation (1 p.p.) are the two areas where this country has greater values relative to the regional average. The biggest increase of the relative share as compared to the previous period was recorded in writing and translation (3.5 p.p.), and the biggest decrease happened in software development (3.1 p.p.).

In North Macedonia, a pronounced comparative advantage is evident in data entry and administrative services, and in the most recent measurement – as high as 6.4 percent relative to the regional average which is a 0.9 percent point growth relative to the previous measurement. North Macedonia is achieving comparative advantages also in three more areas – professional services (0.4 p.p.), creative services and multimedia (0.5 p.p.) and sales and marketing (0,3 p.p.). The change relative to the previous measurement is the comparative advantage in professional services where this market records advantage (1.5 p.p.), with a small advantage identified in marketing and sales (0.4 p.p.). As in the case of Serbia, there has been no change in comparative advantages relative to the previous measurement.

Serbian gig workers continue to dominate in multimedia and creative services – the highest number of freelancers is concentrated in this area and their share exceeds the regional average by 5.2 percentage point. This happened despite the fact that their share relative to other occupations in Serbia decreased by 1.6 p.p.. Partial advantage was recorded in data entry and administrative jobs (1.1 p.p.), albeit 0.5 p.p. smaller than in the previous measurement. On the local market, the increase of share of gig workers in professional services (0.2 percent), data entry and administrative services (1.6 p.p.) and writing and translation (2 percentage point) was achieved at the expense of the other three professions, with software development having the most pronounced decrease –1.6 p.p..

REGIONAL GIG WORKERS BY GENDER

Men dominate in platform work in our sample: 635 of 1000 are men. Nevertheless, the latest regional measurement shows a 2.1 percent points increase of the share of women, primarily thanks to the higher number of women among the new freelancers. The share of women increased in all the countries except Croatia (-0.5 p.p. relative to the February measurement). Taking into account gender structure per country, significant changes are noticeable. Namely, although men constitute more than a half of the gig population in each of the countries in the region, the percentage of female gig workers in two countries: Albania and Montenegro is still above 40%. Both countries recorded an increase of the number of female gig workers relative to the previous measurement, additionally making them increasingly gender equal against this parameter. A higher share of women relative to the regional overview is also seen in Bulgaria, Hungary and North Macedonia. The latest measurement again shows the most unfavourable gender structure in Bosnia and Herzegovina (only 30.8 percent of gig population are women), but this market recorded the biggest progress relative to the previous measurement – the number of female gig workers grew by 5.2 percent points. A slight but continuous decrease of differences in gender structure among the countries in the region has been recorded in the most recent measurement. Taking into account gender balance among different occupations, the female gig workers in Albania are most uniformly represented in certain areas. For instance, there are more than 2.5 times female freelancers doing clerical and data entry jobs than in the least  populated profession in this country – professional services. The major difference persists in Croatia: almost eight times more female freelancers are in the most populated occupation – writing and translation.Read more ...

As for the population of male gig workers, without exception the lowest representation is in professional services – from 2.3 percent in Bosnia and Herzegovina to 5.3 percent in Albania. However, except the share, the size of gig workers’ market is very important for the perception of potential of certain markets. In this respect, although gig workers in professional services in Serbia are not overly numerous by share (3.1 percent points more) than in Montenegro, the Serbian market of gig workers in professional services is nine times that of the Montenegrin. Similarly, Romania has an almost identical number of gig workers in professional services though their share in overall gig workers in Romania is 1 percent point higher than in Serbia.

With respect to the most popular profession, the market of gig workers in the region is more monolithic than the female freelancer market. Namely, Romania, Bulgaria and Albania dominate in software development, with creative services and multimedia being in the lead in the other countries. Croatia, Hungary and Albania record minor differences in the population of gig workers in creative services and multimedia and software development. A clear pattern of market specialization when looking at male freelancers is evident also from the fact that 2/3 of the population works in these two occupations in almost all of the countries. This share is much higher in Romania (72.5 percent), Serbia (70.8 percent), Bosnia and Herzegovina (73.1 percent), Croatia (70.5 percent) and Montenegro (70.1 percent) – seven out of 10 gig workers are employed in creative services and multimedia or software development.

HOURLY RATES, IN US$

The demanded average hourly rate remained practically unchanged relative to the previous measurement. While the decrease recorded in February 2021 relative to October 2020 was more pronounced, the latest rate measurement decreased by an average 0.02 cents per hour only. One may conclude that the labour market stabilised, at least with respect to hourly rates. Croatia remains the country with the most expensive work force (24.04$/h), and North Macedonia the country with the cheapest work force (16.05$/h). Hypotethically speaking, if the Croatian freelancer worked 176 hours in August (this is the number of possible work hours in regular employment) and earned an average gig worker income, he earned 1406,24$ more than his colleague in North Macedonia, with the same engagement and the average hourly rate in the latter country.

Differences among countries are evident with respect to the demanded average hourly rate. It exceeds 20$ in the EU Member States only. Read more ... However, all of them as well as Albania and Montenegro recorded a decrease of the average hourly rate. It was most pronounced in Croatia – 72 cents per hour, and the least pronounced in Montenegro – only 0.02 cents per hour. On the other hand, the other three countries with the significantly lower average hourly rates recorded increase – from 0.81 cents in Bosnia and Herzegovina, to a more modest increase in North Macedonia (0.26 cents) and Serbia (0.19 cents). In a consequence it came to convergence in income between the countries although significant differences still persist.

The noted positive consequence of the pandemic identified in the previous period – convergence of (average) earnings between men and women – was confirmed by the most recent measurement as well. The average hourly rate of women increased by 2.4 percent, and so they earned 83.54 percent of the average hourly rate of men in August. The initial negative impact of the pandemic on the convergence of income (recorded in May and October 2020) seems to have definitely disappeared. In other words, the difference between the earnings (per hour) of the representative male gig worker in the region decreased by 0.50 cents in August relative to the February measurement – he earned 3.52$/h more than the representative female gig worker.

Still, the convergence exists at regional level only, with various trends recorded in particular countries. Namely, Bosnia and Herzegovina saw a dramatic increase of the (average) income of female freelancers relative to men – 9 percent. Therefore, female freelancers in Bosnia and Herzegovina now earn 94,1 percent of income earned by the male freelancers. Significant convergences were achieved also in Montenegro (7.7 p.p.), and more modest in North Macedonia (4.6 p.p.), Serbia (3.3 p.p.) and Romania (2.5 p.p.). The change is Bulgaria is insignificant (0.05 p.p.). Contrary to the prevailing trend, deepening of differences in income was observed in Albania (3.3 p.p.), Hungary (1.8 p.p.) and to a far lesser extent in (0.1 p.p.).

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