GIGMETAR REPORT FEBRUARY 2022

Gigmetar’s latest measurement covered a population of 10,127 Serbian gig workers, or approx. 80 percent of those with active profiles on the Upwork.

HIGHLIGHTS

There has been a fivefold growth rate of gig workers on primary platform (to 15.9 percent) relative to previous measurement

Gig work is increasingly concentrated in urban areas, with 9 of 10 new gig workers living or working in one of Serbia’s 28 cities and towns

The latest measurement showed growth is especially strong in Novi Pazar (46.8 percent) and Leskovac (43.8 percent), although absolute workforce numbers there remained relatively low

The share of women gig workers continues to rise by slow peace, reaching 36 percent in the latest measurement

Professional services record unprecedented growth of close to 50 percent relative to previous measurement

New entrants are facing no gender barriers to finding work in the digital market, with women as likely as men to get their first job in this industry

As many as 80.8 percent of Serbian gig workers commanded hourly rates lower than the global average of US$28 and still below pre-pandemic levels

Most frequent hourly wage of Serbian gig workers, for 13.9 percent of them, is US$10

RESULTS IN DETAILS

The figures revealed an increase in gig workers of as much as 15.9 percent, which could be due to two factors: 1) the rising popularity of gig work in the national market, which would follow global trend as suggested in Payoneer report; or 2) a realignment of workers between platforms due to growing competition. However, since the number of Serbian gig workers on the three most popular global platforms has remained virtually unchanged over the past six months, it appears that growth on the dominant platform was primarily, though not exclusively, driven by the gig workforce switching to this online marketplace. The considerations that have contributed to this growth have been the rapid pace of technology development, making these jobs more accessible on a global scale; disruptive changes to companies’ business models, which have forced them to seek talent and human resources outside their organisations to meet their needs for growth, respond to competitive pressures, and engage in technological transformation; and demographic trends and preferences of younger generations, which view gig work as an appealing option for professional development. These currents have remained unchanged, despite the uncertainties that have been haunting the global post-pandemic recovery and the war in Ukraine.

With Ukraine for decades having had one of the most vibrant freelancer communities and the world’s seventh largest gig workforce, the full impact of the war on the Serbian and regional gig markets is yet to become fully apparent.

In the latest sample, the number of Serbian gig workers engaged on specific projects at the time of the measurement stood at 22.3 percent of the gig workers active in the preceding six months, a slight drop relative to the previous measurement (23.8 percent) and a more moderate decline in relation to one year previously (23.5 percent). In other words, close to four-fifths of all gig workers were not working at the time of the measurement. The fairly small proportion of engaged freelancers compared to the overall gig workforce may be due to growing competition worldwide, where the supply of gig work may have outstripped demand, as well as the relatively high cost (time invested in looking for work) and the challenging nature of competing for gigs globally compared to finding employment in the conventional job market.

The latest measurement has revealed an increase in the proportion of gig workers continuously working from August 2021 to February 2022 (by 8.3 percent) relative to those who worked without interruption from February to August 2021. In addition, the rising preference of gig workers to remain only in the digital market is borne out by the fact that, in the latest survey, 85.2 percent who were working at the time of the measurement had also been engaged six months previously. By contrast, no more than 71.1 percent of those who worked in August 2021 had done so six months prior to that date. Put differently, 19 percent of the workforce that had been found to have been working in the previous measurement also worked (were engaged on projects) in the latest survey. For these workers, the gig economy obviously constituted either the primary or the sole source of income. It is also interesting to note that women were somewhat more engaged on projects than men: their share in working population of 37.1 percentage is greater than their share of the total gig workforce.

Another interesting observation was that first-time gig workers were more likely to join the sales and marketing support and clerical and data entry sectors. This could either be due to the greater demand for work in those areas that made it easier to get jobs, or the greater likelihood of workers in these occupations to make gig work a career choice. By contrast, new entrants were on average less likely to join the software dev and tech and creative and multimedia industries.

% OF GIG WORKERS BY ADMINISTRATIVE DISTRICT

Continuous tracking of the freelancer population by NUTS2 region reveals a fairly stable regional distribution of gig workers. Nevertheless, the latest measurement has shown that the major growth of the gig workforce over the past six months has been accompanied by greater clustering of these workers in urban areas, with 9 out of 10 new entrants living and working in the 28 cities and towns of Serbia.

All Serbian macro regions have seen increases in the gig workforce active on the dominant online platform. Whereas in the previous measurement no area had recorded double-digit growth, in the most recent survey all regions registered severalfold increases. For instance, whilst in the previous survey Southern and Eastern Serbia saw growth rate of no more than 4.3 percent, in the latest measurement the growth rate was greater than fourfold, standing at 17.9 percent. With negligible regional differences, the growth ranged from some 14 percent in Vojvodina and Šumadija and Western Serbia to 16.6 percent in Belgrade. However, given the appreciable concentration of the gig workforce in Belgrade, in absolute numbers the increase in the capital’s gig worker population was equal to the growth registered by Vojvodina and Šumadija and Western Serbia put together. Read more ...

Moreover, the demographic structure of the country, generally poor worker mobility, and (relatively) high level of competences required for digital work, seem to have cemented the dominance of Belgrade and Vojvodina, which now together account for more than two-thirds of the Serbian gig workforce.

This vibrant growth across the regions has some interesting implications for regional distribution by gender. Two significant changes have materialised in the past six months. Firstly, in contrast to the findings of the previous measurement, the latest survey has registered increases in both men and women gig workers, but with some regional variation. In Šumadija and Western Serbia, new men gig workers outnumbered their women counterparts by six to one, whereas in Vojvodina they only did so by a factor of 1.2. Southern and Eastern Serbia and Belgrade occupied the middle of the scale, with one new woman gig worker for every 1.4 men.

Regional administrative hubs accounted for 67.1 percent of the increase in gig workforce. This trend was particularly pronounced in Niš, which saw growth of 22.2 percent, followed by Belgrade and Novi Sad, with increases of 16.5 and 13.8 percent, respectively. The most recent survey once again identified Kragujevac as the city with the lowest growth of no more than 7.5 percent. The figures suggest Šumadija and Western Serbia had the lowest concentration of the gig workforce in the regional centre.

Away from these administrative centres, two towns that recorded large increases in the local gig workforce were Novi Pazar (46.8 percent) and Leskovac (43.8 percent); three urban centres that saw growth exceeding 30 percent, namely Bor (36.2 percent), Pančevo (32.6 percent), and Šabac (30.9 percent), whilst Sombor (29.5 percent), Smederevo (25.9%), Jagodina (20.7 percent), and Užice (20 percent) registered increases greater than 20 percent. Read more ...

Interestingly, Subotica, which had led growth in Serbia’s gig market in the previous survey, saw no changes in the most recent measurement.

Apart from the regional administrative hubs, another seven towns – Kraljevo, Kruševac, Čačak, Leskovac, Subotica, Novi Sad, Pančevo, and Zrenjanin – recorded appreciable concentrations of gig workers (more than 1 percent of overall workforce).

GIG WORKERS BY OCCUPATION

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The charts below show the distribution of gig workers by occupation according to the Online Labour Index (OLI) classification. The creative and multimedia class not only remained dominant, but the latest measurement also shows it has attracted the greatest proportion of new entrants, 27 percent, into the gig workforce. This figure ought to be interpreted through the lens of two potentially significant factors: firstly, both formal and informal education seem to be turning out specialists with skills in these areas, and, secondly, creative and multimedia professionals may be facing difficulties in finding appropriate work in the mainstream job market.

Even though gig workers increased in number across all classes of occupations, there were broad variations between them. These have reduced the shares of some occupations in the total gig workforce, albeit only relatively slightly so. Read more ...

More specifically, apart from creative and multimedia, the clerical and data entry class saw the greatest increase, of 21.5 percent. Nearly one in two new entrants found work in either of these two occupations. By contrast, sales and marketing support (10.7 percent) and writing and translation (11.9 percent) registered the lowest growth. Interestingly, software dev and tech also recorded an increase of as much as 15.6 percent, in a major shift from the previous survey, when a decline had been observed. This finding may come as a surprise given the stability of demand for coders in the mainstream labour market and the continuing increase in their salaries and improvement in their working conditions. The trend could be explained, however, by the greater attractiveness of online jobs/projects, especially given the growing importance of time and location flexibility and the fact that both online work and traditional employment offer equally good opportunities and income.

REGIONAL GIG WORKERS AS % OF TOTAL, BY OCCUPATION

A rule of thumb in economics is that, once established, a market’s structural characteristics can change only slowly and over a long period of time. This is also true of the gig work market. However, since this market is relatively new and rapidly growing, its changes can sometimes prove to be more significant. As such, the direction of any change is much more important than a data point identified at any particular moment. Regional shares of gig workers in the total by occupation have remained similar to those identified in past measurements, but some changes are also in evidence. The largest differences were registered for professional services, and the smallest ones for clerical and data entry.

Unlike in the previous survey, when Belgrade registered growth only in clerical and data entry gig workers, in the most recent measurement increases were recorded for professional services, clerical and data entry, and software dev and tech. The only major change occurred with clerical and data entry (where the share rose by 1.9 pp and the gig worker population increased by as much as 30 percent relative to the previous survey), whilst the other two occupations saw minimal movements. Read more ...

This outcome could be due to Belgrade’s greater supply of workers with less sophisticated competences and/or a signal that the market now includes younger freelancers who have lower educational attainment and/or older ones who lack the sophisticated skills needed to compete for higher value-added work in the global digital market. The remaining three occupations, creative and multimedia, sales and marketing support, and writing and translation have all seen a slight decrease in the share of Belgrade-based freelancers in the total gig workforce, even though these populations have become much larger overall. This suggests that growth in these occupations was much more pronounced in other regions.

Vojvodina is distinct in that it registered a drop in its share of the nationwide gig workforce in as many as four occupations, professional services, clerical and data entry, sales and marketing support, and writing and translation. Professional services saw the only major fall (of 2.1 pp). By contrast, the remaining two occupations recorded growth, albeit on a small scale. Comparing these results with previously identified changes seems to suggest a longer-term downward trend in Vojvodina’s share in professional services and clerical and data entry work.

Southern and Eastern Serbia was unique in having seen its share increase across all occupations, save for a small dip in creative and multimedia. Especially significant was the marked increase of 2 pp in professional services, caused by the gig workforce in this occupation ballooning by 75 percent relative to the previous measurement. This fact, coupled with the continued increase in the share of freelancers engaged in software dev and tech, means the value of the gig services market is only set to grow.

Unlike in the previous survey, when it registered an increase in its share in all occupations, in this measurement the least populous region of Šumadija and Western Serbia only saw its share grow in creative and multimedia and sales and marketing support. By contrast, the only significant drop in this region’s share in the national freelance workforce was registered in clerical and data entry, where the latest survey revealed only 8.9 percent of all Serbian gig workers in that occupation came from this part of the country. In view of the magnitude of the changes over time, Šumadija and Western Serbia seems to be not only the smallest, but also the least vibrant region when it comes to developments in the digital labour market.

% OF REGIONAL GIG WORKERS BY OCCUPATION

The significant increase in the gig workforce observed in the latest measurement has meant all occupations are now equally represented in all regions. Creative and multimedia (1) is the largest category, followed by software dev and tech (2), clerical and data entry (3), and writing and translation (4), with sales and marketing support (5) and professional services (6) coming last. This levelling has been caused by Belgrade’s clerical and data entry gig workforce growing by close to one-third relative to the previous measurement. Even though the difference between the most and the least represented occupation – creative and multimedia and professional services – has remained pronounced, it has shrunk significantly, from a factor of 9.5 in the previous survey to under 7 in the latest measurement. Read more ...

This suggests not only that the past six months have seen a major increase in gig workers in professional services, but also that the structure of the digital labour market has become more balanced. This consideration is particularly important for the market’s stability and its future development alike.

Changes in each region’s comparative advantage (defined as a higher share of a particular occupation in that region compared to the average share of that occupation nationally) have become apparent throughout the country, due to the recent robust growth of the gig population and a variety of regional trends. Belgrade has been the only exception, with the capital’s gig worker market structure remaining highly stable over the past year. This was due to an interplay between three factors: the size of the city’s online work market compared to those of other regions; relatively balanced structural development over time; and the absence of large-scale changes elsewhere in the country that could affect the performance of Belgrade. As such, the Belgrade region has retained a comparative advantage in professional services, sales and marketing support, and writing and translation, with the capital exceeding the average of other regions in professional services by 2.3 pp. Interestingly, the latest measurement has found comparative advantages in software dev and tech in all regions except for Belgrade, which may at least partially be accounted for by the vitality of the city’s market and the variety, wealth, and quality of work opportunities available to software coders in the capital.

However, third and fourth place differed: clerical and data entry came third in all regions save Belgrade (where it was ranked third), whereas writing and translation was in third place in Belgrade but came fourth in all other areas.

Vojvodina has lost its comparative advantage in professional services, but its advantage in creative and multimedia and sales and marketing support has increased.

Southern and Eastern Serbia has seen the largest changes: this region lost its comparative advantage in creative and multimedia but increased its degree of specialisation in clerical and data entry. This region gained comparative advantages in software dev and tech and professional services, chiefly as these were the occupations chosen by new entrants to the market.

Even though the gig workforce was the smallest in Šumadija and Western Serbia, this region has secured comparative advantages in as many as four occupations, having gained an edge in creative and multimedia and retained its above-average share of clerical and data entry, software dev and tech, and writing and translation freelancers. Here, the relatively large number of new gig workers in creative and multimedia and writing and translation have increased the region’s advantage over other parts of the country in these two occupations, whereas its lead in the remaining two occupations has narrowed as its shares have come closer to regional averages.

GIG WORKERS BY GENDER

The latest measurement again revealed that the proportion of women gig workers in Serbia was above average and growing (at 36 percent) relative to worldwide trends, where, according to the Payoneer global freelancer report, the share stood at 29 percent. The number of women freelancers increased by nearly one-fifth, or as much as 17.7 percent, over the previous six months, but the large-scale influx of new men entrants into the market has meant the gender distribution has remained almost the same, with the share of women growing by no more than 0.5 pp from the previous survey. Going forward, obstacles to full parity will come primarily from outside the digital labour market and will include long-established social, cultural, and educational features of each individual country.

The proportion of women with working experience who are known to have previously earned an income has increased by 41.2 percent over the percentage of women without such experience and previous income, whilst for men the figure was somewhat higher, at 46.1 percent. Even though this difference between men and women was moderate, it may indicate greater seasonality of women’s platform work, although a multitude of factors are at play here, including the likelihood that platforms dominated by women can be exposed to greater competition, which may make it less easy for women to find work. In addition, women may prefer intermittent platform-based engagement, as suggested by the fact that women accounted for no more than 22.5 percent of the population also found to be working in the previous survey. This is a particularly adverse aspect of Serbia’s digital job market when viewed in the context of the global decline in income and increased difficulty in finding work encountered by gig workers active on platforms only intermittently. In addition, the latest studies looking at the conventional job market reveal that wage increases are limited to full-time workers, whilst those in part-time employment cannot expect their incomes will grow at all over time.

% OF GIG WORKERS BY GENDER AND OCCUPATION

Even the previous survey had already recorded a major increase in the number of women gig workers, the latest measurement identified growth greater by a factor of 2.5 than previously. Nevertheless, whilst growth of the female gig workforce had previously far outstripped that of the male freelancer population, in the latest measurement the growth rate was only slightly higher for women (at 17.7 percent) than for men (14.9 percent).

Women gig workers were more numerous across all occupations, in a major departure from the previous measurement, when creative and multimedia and software dev and tech stagnated and sales and marketing support even saw a significant decline. In the latest survey, professional services saw dramatic growth, with the women freelancer population almost doubling (at 46.6 percent), as did sales and marketing support (25.2 percent), and clerical and data entry (23.2 percent), whereas software dev and tech (14.6 percent), creative and multimedia (12.6 percent), and writing and translation (10.8 percent) saw more moderate growth rates. It is important to note that high growth occupations – professional services, sales and marketing support, and software dev and tech – were also those that registered the greatest increases in demand worldwide. Read more ...

Despite having grown only minimally in the preceding period (at 1.2 percent), the male freelancer population saw a large influx of new entrants amounting to as much as 14.9 percent. As with women freelancers, this growth was apparent across all occupations, but with major variations in both extent and character when compared with the female gig workforce. Professional services saw explosive growth of 58.2 percent. Significant increases were registered in sales and marketing support (23.5 percent), clerical and data entry (23.2 percent), and writing and translation (18.8 percent). Less pronounced but still high growth was seen in the remaining two occupations, software dev and tech (10.8 percent) and multimedia and creative (10.3 percent). Exceptionally strong growth seen over the past two periods (16.4 percent in the previous survey and 23.2 percent in the latest measurement) in clerical and data entry freelancing suggests the least sophisticated jobs account for the largest untapped pool of male workers, which poses a challenge for the future development of Serbia’s digital labour market. Particularly, this trend runs counter to global patterns of demand for gig work, where the lowest-earning occupations are faced with declining demand.

The large increase in gig workers has also altered the gender structure of occupations. In the previous measurement, women were more numerous in three occupations, namely professional services, clerical and data entry, and writing and translation. However, the huge overall growth has meant women now (significantly) outnumber men only in writing and translation (25.7 percent) and enjoy a slight numerical advantage in clerical and data entry (2.7 percent). Nevertheless, despite still being large, women’s dominance in writing and translation has substantially narrowed relative to the previous measurement (by 9 pp). Men dominated the remaining four occupations to quite a large degree, outnumbering women 7 to 1 in software dev and tech and 2 to 1 in creative and multimedia, with 8 women for every 10 men in sales and marketing support. In professional services, men outnumbered women by 6.9 percent.

TOTAL INCOME BY GENDER

Freelancer income was determined by the interplay of three factors: the large preponderance of men over women freelancers, men’s greater average income (to a lesser extent), and the somewhat greater seasonality of gig work by women when compared to men. Notwithstanding the incremental increase in the share of women captured by the latest measurement (by 0.6 pp) to 36 percent of the total freelancer workforce, continuing the upward trend seen in the previous survey (when the increase had amounted to 1.2 pp), women’s share in total income has seen a slight decline, to 26.5 percent in the latest measurement. This finding suggests that the mild increase in women’s numbers was unable to offset either the greater seasonality of their platform work or the persistent significant differences in hourly rates and probably both. Still, the share was greater than one year ago (when it stood at 26.1 percent), so that the relative position of women has not worsened despite the impact of these adverse factors.

HOURLY RATES, IN US$, BY GENDER AND OCCUPATION

The latest measurement suggests official hourly rates – those listed by gig workers on their profiles – have continued to increase, but by a mere 0.8 percent, still less than six months previously. However, men and women registered larger differences in how much their hourly rates increased. Essentially, the latest measurement found men earned on average US$19.89, whilst for women the figure was US$16.79. This has meant the income gap between men and women has remained virtually unchanged, as the latest survey found women freelancers earned 84.4 percent of men’s average rates, similar to the 84.1 percent identified in the previous measurement. The Serbian digital labour market was thus doubly specific in the global context, since gender differences here were smaller than the global average: according to the Payoneer 2022 Global Freelancer Income Report, women earned on average 82 percent of what men did. Secondly, despite the slight upward trend in gender inequality worldwide since 2020, Serbia has registered sustained, although modest, income convergence. Nevertheless, both men and women in Serbia earn much less than the global average: men command hourly rates lower by 40 percent of global average, whereas for women the difference was somewhat lower, at 36 percent. It means that Serbian female gig workers were at an advantage compared to their male counterparts. Besides, whilst hourly rates worldwide have increased significantly, by one-third, in the past two years (from US$21 to US$28), the average rate commanded by Serbian freelancers has remained 3 percent lower than pre-pandemic levels. Key underlying reasons for this could be the structure of Serbia’s digital labour market and the overall economic conditions that make Serbian gig workers’ rates globally competitive.

In contrast to the previous measurement, when all occupations registered income growth, the latest survey has recorded mixed trends, even though the amplitudes of these fluctuations were not high. Gig workers in professional services and sales and marketing support have seen a drop in their average hourly rates. Assuming a freelancer in the professional services category had worked full time (176 hours per month) in August and earned the average hourly rate, he or she would have earned some US$90 less in February 2022 than in August 2021, whereas in the sales and marketing support the monthly income would have fallen by US$112 relative to six months earlier. By contrast, the only appreciable income increase was found in the software dev and tech category (4 percent on the previous survey); in writing and translation the growth amounted to a mere 2 percent; lastly, incomes rose even more modestly (by 1.6 percent) in clerical and data entry and remained virtually unchanged in creative and multimedia (having increased by 0.2 percent). Read more ...

From a gender perspective, it is interesting to note that changes to women gig workers’ hourly rates were noticeably different from those observed for the freelancer population as a whole. For women, rates fell appreciably in professional services, by nearly US$1 per hour, and less so in sales and marketing support (by some US$0.5 per hour). These trends suggest that better-qualified women gig workers in occupations that commanded higher average rates were more exposed to adverse effects in the digital labour market than those in less well-paid occupations. Nevertheless, even though rates in clerical and data entry rose (albeit only modestly) across the entire freelancer population, women gig workers in this occupation still earned slightly less than they had done six months before. Hourly rates increased moderately in the remaining occupations, and somewhat more so in software dev and tech, where women gig workers (who worked full time) could expect to earn US$185 more per month than six months previously. These trends have reduced income inequality within the female freelancers.

As with their female counterparts, men gig workers in professional services and sales and marketing support saw their average hourly rates decrease. The reduction was nine times smaller for men than for women in professional services, whereas in sales and marketing support men’s rates fell only slightly when compared to those of women. The opposite trend was found for creative and multimedia: whilst here women gig workers’ rates rose slightly, men’s incomes fell somewhat. Growth in the remaining three occupations was either modest, standing at 4.8 percent for clerical and data entry and 3.9 percent for software dev and tech, or completely absent in the case of writing and translation.

A particularly significant finding was the unchanged median hourly rate for male gig workers, which remained at US$15 per hour. By contrast, the women’s median hourly rate fell by US$0.15 per hour, a decline of 4 percent. The median rate for women was identical to the one found one year before the survey, showing that hourly rates have stagnated for the largest part of the gig workforce over the past year. By contrast, median hourly rates commanded by new entrants stood at US$12 vs the US$15 rates requested by experienced freelancers, a difference of 25 percent. One especially interesting discovery was the gender difference between the median hourly rates of new entrants and freelancers with platform experience. This distinction was much smaller for new entrants, where women gig workers earned on average 13.6 percent less than their male counterparts (US$11 vs US$12.5 per hour), whilst the median experienced male freelancer could earn one-third more than the equivalent woman gig worker. This finding testifies to the fact that increasing experience tended to reduce gender-based differences in median hourly rates.

The top ten percent gig workers earned from US$75 to US$250 per hour, whilst the bottom 10 percent commanded between US$3 and US$5. As such, rates earned by the highest income decile were between 15 and 83 times higher than those of the lowest decile. In addition, 60 percent of the gig workforce commanded rates lower than the average wage. Interestingly, 80.8 percent of Serbian freelancers charged less than the global average (of US$28 per hour), and the most common hourly rate quoted by Serbia’s gig workers was US$10, which was charged by 13.9 percent of the country’s freelance community.

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

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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