GIG WORKERS IN SERBIA
The Covid-19 outbreak has affected the gig economy in Serbia: the March-April 2020 assessment (previous report can be found HERE) has revealed a 5.6 percent drop in the number of active gig workers relative to January-February 2020. Even though Serbia’s decline is less pronounced than the global average, this is the first year we have failed to observe the long-standing pattern of gig work increasing in spring. When this absent seasonal growth is taken into account, it becomes apparent that the 5.6 percent contraction tells only part of the story, revealing, as expected, that this is only one of the many labour markets sensitive to global challenges such as
Due to the already noted seasonal character of gig work – with demand slackening in time for the winter holidays and in the summertime, when employers are away on vacation – this spring assessment shows that the number of gig workers has risen by about 13.4 percent relative to the baseline (November-December 2019). Ordinarily, as revealed by the OLI, this growth has been known to reach as much as about 25 percent (as in the spring of 2018 and 2019). If this consideration is taken into account, the actual net decline in gig work in Serbia during the reporting period stands at 12 percent, in contrast to the headline figure of 5.6 percent.
Of the four Serbian regions, it was Vojvodina that recorded the greatest relative decline, followed by Belgrade. Southern Serbia saw the smallest dip, whilst the latest assessment reveals Šumadija and Western Serbia was the only region with a modest increase, of 1 percent. This does not change the fact that Belgrade stays home for the largest part of the gig workers population in Serbia.
% OF GIG WORKERS BY ADMINISTRATIVE DISTRICT
The charts below show the distribution of gig workers by Serbian administrative districts at two points in time. Even though the Covid-19 pandemic has cut numbers in three of the four regions, disaggregating the gig workforce by the 24 administrative districts reveals that their concentration of has remained the same in three areas, namely City of Belgrade, Southern Bačka District, and Nišava District, which host 67.7 percent of all Serbian gig workers. In this reporting period there have been major increases in the Kolubara District (23.3 percent), Bor District (13.5 percent), and Pomoravlje District (9.4 percent), but it ought to be borne in mind that these parts of the country are home to relatively few gig workers, so any change will always be highly visible.
GIG WORKERS BY OCCUPATION
The charts below show the distribution of gig workers in Serbia by occupation, according to the Online Labour Index (OLI) classification. Creative and multimedia services have remained dominant, followed by software development and technology, which has nevertheless recorded a dip of 9.5 percent in the overall sample. This downward trend runs counter to OLI data, which show that global demand for IT specialists has increased during the crisis, in contrast to a contraction in the market for creative and multimedia and marketing support. Serbia’s creative and multimedia freelancers have been active, which is good news for the country as they are over-represented locally relative to the global average (this occupation accounts for 44 percent of Serbian gig workers as opposed to 33 percent worldwide).
The only increase observed in the reporting period was a 9 percent rise in clerical and data entry, a trend similar to that recorded by the OLI. Serbia has thus seen a drop in active workers in IT, one of the highest-paid occupations, and a relative increase in clerical and data entry, which is one of the lowest-paid lines of online work.
REGIONAL GIG WORKERS AS % OF TOTAL, BY OCCUPATION
As noted above, Vojvodina recorded the greatest decline in gig workers (-8.5 percent). A closer look reveals that writing and translation contracted the most, by as much as 13.3 percent, with professional services growing modestly. Vojvodina has also improved its position somewhat relative to other regions in terms of its relative share of software development and technology gig workers.
Belgrade registered the second-highest fall, having lost 5.9 percent of its active gig workforce relative to the January-February 2020 assessment. This round of observations, made during the Covid-19 pandemic, revealed a slight decline in the relative share of Belgrade against other regions across all occupations, except in the professional services and creative and multimedia. This finding comes as no surprise, given that Belgrade’s professional services community is the largest in the country and has been growing relative to other regions ever since the first baseline measurement was conducted (November-December 2019). The capital city has seen Serbia’s largest fall in software dev and tech and writing and translation.
Southern and Eastern Serbia is ranked third by number of gig workers lost, having recorded a drop of 4.9 percent. Notwithstanding the absolute decline in numbers in this area, its share of the writing and translation workforce has increased (from 13.9 percent to 15.5 percent), as have its relative proportions of clerical and data entry and creative and multimedia freelancers, albeit to a lesser extent. In the region the downward trend in its software development and technology gig workforce has continued: over the past 6 months, the share of Southern and Eastern Serbian IT freelancers has declined by 2.1 percentage points to just 17.4 percent of all Serbian software dev and tech workers.
Šumadija and Western Serbia, the sole region that has witnessed an increase in active gig workers (of 1 percent), recorded the largest growth in its share of clerical and data entry freelancers (from 16 to 18.1 percent). Other occupations have also seen their numbers increase, with practically no change in in writing and translation.
% OF REGIONAL GIG WORKERS BY OCCUPATION
The charts display the distribution of gig workers by occupation for each region at two-month intervals. Trends have remained largely unchanged for each region, with the greatest relative shares of gig workers still seen in creative and multimedia and software development and technology.
GIG WORKERS BY GENDER
No major changes have materialised in the gender structure of the gig workforce. As in the previous assessment, the findings reveal that two out of every three Serbian gig workers are male, indicating that online work remains a predominantly male pursuit. In May, the proportion of women gig workers stood at 31.4 percent, which was slightly lower than in either February 2020 (31.8 percent) or December 2019 (32.4 percent). In spite of this modest, but continuous decline, the share of women in Serbia’s freelance workforce has remained greater than the global average (of 24 percent).
% OF GIG WORKERS BY GENDER AND OCCUPATION
The overall gender gap remains pronounced and has even widened substantially in some occupations. This trend is best seen in software dev and tech, where the Covid-19 pandemic has seen a decline in the share of women gig workers to 10:1, as opposed to the pre-pandemic 10:1.18 (meaning that men outnumbered women by a factor of 8.5). By contrast, during the Covid-19 outbreak, women cemented their dominance in writing and translation and became the tiny majority in professional services.
TOTAL INCOME BY GENDER
The income gender gap in Serbia also widened during the reporting period. More than 75% of the revenue earned belongs to male gig workers active on Upwork, while female gig workers take home the rest. This outcome is due to the operation of long-term factors, primarily the fact that men dominate occupations that the assessment has revealed to be better-paid.
HOURLY RATES, IN US$, BY GENDER AND OCCUPATION
The average hourly rate earned by Serbian gig workers has increased slightly during the pandemic, from US$ 19.3 to US$ 19.6, a finding that matches global trends. This has narrowed the gap between the average Serbian hourly rate and the global average of US$ 21. Even though a gender-based difference in earnings is still pronounced, it diminished significantly in March and April, with the latest finding revealing women are able to command 83 percent of men’s average hourly rates (as opposed to the 79.1 percent seen in January-February). This means that earnings of Serbian women freelancers have almost completely caught up with the global average of 84 percent of the rates commanded by their male peers.
The gender gap in hourly rates has shrunk across all occupations except clerical and data entry, where it has remained nearly the same.
HOW GIGMETAR WORKS
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.