GIGMETAR REPORT MAY 2023
The latest Gigmetar survey looked at 10,771 gig workers, or 62.5 percent of the total freelancer population on Serbia’s most popular gig platform. The total gig workforce has grown by one-fifth relative to the previous measurement, continuing the post-pandemic double-digit growth trend.
The total gig worker population has increased by one-fifth relative to the previous measurement, continuing the post-pandemic double-digit growth trend.
Women accounted for some 41 percent of first-time gig workers, a figure significantly exceeding their share in the gig workforce (32.7 percent) and much higher than in the previous survey.
As many as 83.5 percent of all Serbian freelancers live and work in 28 of the country’s cities and towns. The four regional centres account for the bulk of this population (75 percent), with nine Serbian cities and towns home to more than 1 percent of the overall gig workforce.
Freelancing is an increasingly attractive option for highest-paid professionals in the most highly developed regions of Belgrade and Vojvodina.
For every 1,000 women gig workers with no earnings there are an additional 1,300 who derive income from platform work. For men, the ratio is 1 to 1: for every 1,000 workers reporting no income there are 1,000 with earnings.
The median hourly rate for freelancers has grown by 11 percent to US$20, with the average hourly rate increasing by 9.9 percent. Women gig workers earned on average 86.5 percent of the men’s average hourly rate.
RESULTS IN DETAILS
This finding suggests the country’s gig work market is highly resilient and attractive despite there being many challenges to gig work. Substantial uncertainty and restrictive policies pursued by governments throughout the world to steady their markets in the face of growing inflation, instability caused by the war in Ukraine, and geopolitical tensions between the world’s leading economies have all combined to create much risk for gig workers.
The attractiveness of this work is borne out by the fact that one-fifth of all gig workers found their first platform jobs during the reporting period. Moreover, 41.4 percent of these first-time freelancers were women, a figure significantly exceeding their share in the gig workforce (of 32.7 percent) and much higher than in the previous survey. Notably, first-time women platform workers outnumbered men in all occupations but two, multimedia and creative and software dev and tech, where men have traditionally been much more numerous.
Even though platform work continues to attract new Serbian freelancers, according to the latest Payoneer report, local gig workers are facing a major uptick in global competition, find it difficult to get new work, and are seeing slower growth in demand for their services relative to their peers elsewhere in the world. One reason driving these developments is the limited competitiveness of occupations largely represented in this population, such as clerical and data entry.
One piece of good news is that, despite the relatively favourable trends in the mainstream labour market, global companies have increasingly been reliant on the gig workforce, especially in target markets for Serbian gig workers. For instance, 19 percent of all marketing work at medium-sized firms is done by freelancers, with those in possession of technical skills being most sought after. Greater demand for platform workers has also been driven by the normalisation of remote work during the covid pandemic.
In this context, it is interesting to consider how interested gig workers are in finding traditional (contractual) employment, an option recently made available to all freelancers active on Upwork. In Serbia, 27 percent of all these gig workers reported being ready to sign on as full-time employees; it was especially interesting to see that the highest-paid freelancers (those asking for hourly rates of US$20 and above) were readier to accept these contract-to-hire working arrangements. As this option was introduced by the platform only recently, it remains to be seen how many Serbian freelancers will be interested in working full-time for clients outside the platform environment.
At the time of the survey, 22 percent of all registered gig workers were active on particular projects, an increase of nearly 2pp relative to the previous measurement, but this percentage did not differ much from findings recorded in past surveys.
% OF GIG WORKERS BY ADMINISTRATIVE DISTRICT
Continuous monitoring of the gig worker population by region suggests the bulk of the population (83.5 percent) live and work in 28 Serbian cities and towns. This finding also bears out the results of recent studies that found the gig workforce was highly concentrated in urban communities.
The high degree of freelancer concentration in cities and towns, a fairly consistent feature of the Serbian gig work market, may affect balanced regional development as increasing urbanisation of large cities tends to depress demand for local services in smaller communities.
At the NUTS2 level, by far the largest number of freelancers are concentrated in the regions of Belgrade and Vojvodina, which account for 67.5 percent of the total gig workforce. Interestingly, all cities have seen growth in their shares of gig workers relative to the previous measurement, with Belgrade, home to 40.6 percent of the total population accounting, for most of this increase. Novi Sad came second, with 13.1 percent, followed by Niš at 8.3 percent, with by far the smallest share of the freelancer population seen in Kragujevac at 2.9 percent (even though this city also registered an increase in gig workers relative to the general population).
Regional gender balances have shifted somewhat, with Southern and Eastern Serbia, and, to a lesser extent, Vojvodina all seeing greater shares of women freelancers, whilst, conversely, Belgrade recorded a major relative decline in the share of female gig workers (of 1.7pp).
Apart from these large administrative centres, another nine cities and towns had freelancer populations exceeding 1 percent of the total. These were Kraljevo, Kruševac, Čačak, Leskovac, Subotica, Pančevo, and Zrenjanin, where similar results were also found in the previous survey, and two additional ones, Sombor and Novi Pazar.
GIG WORKERS BY OCCUPATION
The charts in this report show the distribution of gig workers by occupation according to the Online Labour Index (OLI) taxonomy developed by the Oxford Internet Institute. Creative and multimedia has remained the dominant occupation, accounting for more than one-third of the gig workforce (35.3 percent), even though its share in the total has contracted by 1.7pp relative to the previous survey.
The latest measurement revealed disparate trends across occupations. Apart from creative and multimedia, declining numbers were also found for clerical and data entry and software dev and tech, whilst the share of writing and translation has remained nearly unchanged. The remaining two occupations – sales and marketing support and professional services – registered an upward trend, growing by 11.5 and 5.3 percent, respectively, in the survey sample.
These trends point to two important conclusions. Firstly, the increase in active freelancers in sales and marketing support reflects the global trend whereby companies have been shifting their business models to prioritise digital marketing and sales. Secondly, the growth of the professional services workforce suggests a qualitative improvement has taken place in the structure of gig workers due to an increased supply of freelancers with sophisticated and well-paid skills.
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.
Belgrade registered growth in two freelancer occupations, professional services and software dev and tech, whilst other occupations saw a downturn relative to the overall population. Vojvodina recorded increases of relative shares in as many as four occupations, with the most pronounced growth occurring in software dev and tech. Clearly, gig work has been attracting an increasing number of freelancers in the most highly paid occupations in the two most extensively developed regions of Belgrade and Vojvodina.Read more ...
% OF REGIONAL GIG WORKERS BY OCCUPATION
As identified in previous surveys, all regions are becoming increasingly similar in terms of their freelancer workforce structures. Creative and multimedia (1) has become the most numerous occupation across all regions, followed by software dev and tech (2), clerical and data entry (3), and writing and translation (4), with sales and marketing support (5) and, lastly, professional services (6) the least well represented. Two factors have contributed to this state of affairs. Firstly, relatively limited changes were observed in the total number of gig workers in each region, and, secondly, even though regional shifts did take place, their magnitude was too small for them to be able to cause major changes in the regional distribution of gig workers by occupation. Read more ...
GIG WORKERS BY GENDER
The decline in women’s share in the gig workforce seen in past surveys has now been halted, with women now accounting for 32.7 percent of the overall freelancer population (in contrast to 32.8 percent recorded in the previous measurement). Nevertheless, the figure remained greater than the average of most global regions, which amounted to 27 percent for the rest of the Europe, according to the latest Payoneer global freelancer report.
In the latest survey, women freelancers who earned income during the reporting period outnumbered those who did not by a factor of 1.3, meaning that there were 1,300 women gig workers who reported earnings for every 1,000 who did not derive any income from platform work. In addition, the ratio was much higher than in the male freelancer population, where there was one worker who earned income from platform work for each one who did not. This finding additionally bears out the assumption that women gig workers on average had more experience than their male peers and were more persistent than men in seeking and finding work.
Male freelancers active at the time of the survey outnumbered women gig workers by nearly two to one, but women freelancers were on average more active than their male counterparts. The share of women active at the time of the measurement in the total female freelancer population stood at 24.5 percent, as opposed to no more than 20.8 percent for male gig workers. The relatively small proportions of workers active at the time of the survey of 22 percent on average suggest gig workers in this part of Europe tend not to work exclusively as freelancers but rather use gigs as only an additional source of income.
% OF GIG WORKERS BY GENDER AND OCCUPATION
The shares of both men and women declined in all areas where downward trends were present. Growth was registered in professional services, sales and marketing support, and software dev and tech, whilst a drop was seen in clerical and data entry. The decline was more marked for male freelancers. Writing and translation was the only occupation that exhibited the opposite trend: whilst men increased their share (by 1.3pp), women freelancers saw theirs fall.
Interestingly, the greatest contractions were seen in occupations that were the least well paid (such as clerical and data entry) or the most numerous (multimedia and creative). This supports the assumption that Serbian gig workers found it more difficult to get work in occupations facing demand-side constraints. By contrast, in areas with large concentrations of freelancers, such as creative and multimedia, it was the extent of competition that made it difficult for gig workers to find jobs, leading some to leave these occupations. Read more ...
TOTAL INCOME BY GENDER
Freelancer income was determined by the interplay of four factors: the large preponderance of men over women freelancers, greater concentration of gig workers in better paid occupations, men’s greater average income, and the somewhat greater seasonality of gig work by women when compared to men.
The share of women gig workers in aggregate income fell by 1 pp, continuing a trend seen in previous measurements, where the total number of women freelancers would at times even increase. Women’s share in total income was driven down by several factors, which are also likely to affect future developments in this area. The main issue was that the male freelancer population has become much larger. And, whilst in this measurement the widening gap between men and women was primarily caused by men’s greater numbers, more frequent activity, and greater likelihood of working in better paid occupations, if these trends persist they will be amplified by the growing presence of men in the gig workforce. Additionally, the drop in aggregate income was significant because the share of women gig workers was below not only levels registered in the previous measurement (of 26.45 percent), but also those seen one year ago (26.1 percent).
HOURLY RATES, IN US$, BY GENDER AND OCCUPATION
Hourly rates registered the most important change seen in this edition of Gigmetar. Official hourly rates – those quoted by workers on their online profiles – continued to rise in the latest survey, but at a much higher rate, of 9.9 percent, than the modest increases of 0.8 and 2.8 percent, respectively, identified in the previous measurement. There is, however, an important consideration here. The increase in hourly rates was certainly driven by the greater cost of living and persistently high inflation over the past three consecutive years. This is only one of a number of responses to the cost of living crisis and one that has also been recorded worldwide, with many freelancers raising the asking prices of their services.
The changes were more pronounced in terms of gender differences in hourly rates. The average hourly rate for women stood at US$19.2, whilst for men it was US$22.2, suggesting that the gender pay gap was continuing to narrow. In the latest survey, the average hourly rates charged by women freelancers were 86.6 percent of those charged by men. Even more important than the closure of the pay gap is the recurring trend identified in previous surveys. The differences found in the Gigmetar measurement were lower than those revealed in the Payoneer survey, where women gig workers in Serbia could earn no more than 81.8 percent of the income earned by their male peers. Even though the average hourly rate was lower than the global average of US$23, the gap was minor as the rates sought by Serbian freelancers amounted to 92.2 percent of the worldwide average. However, the difference was far greater when Serbian hourly rates were compared with average rates charged by freelancers in Western countries (with Serbian freelancers able to charge only 78.5 percent of these rates), and particularly in the US (at 37.9 percent).Read more ...
Recommended citation: Anđelković, B., Jakobi, T., Ivanović, V., Kalinić, Z. & Radonjić, Lj. (2023). Gigmetar Serbia, May 2023, Public Policy Research Center, http://gigmetar.publicpolicy.rs/en/serbia-2023-1/.
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.