GIGMETAR REPORT FEBRUARY 2021

This latest Gigmetar measurement, which analysed data from the global platform hosting the greatest proportion of Serbian gig workers, covered a sample of 8,469 respondents, the largest figure to date.

Following an initial shock caused by the Covid-19 outbreak in early 2020, demand for gig workers recovered, but competition also intensified due to increasing numbers of gig workers for whom this is a primary or secondary source of income. Competition seems likely to continue having a major impact on gig work conditions, with estimates predicting growth in freelancer numbers in the US market alone from the current 57.3 million to 86.5 million by 2027. By contrast, the flourishing of remote work is expected to see companies become increasingly reliant on gig workers. The extent of this growth, however, remains an open question. As for the platform workers themselves, those who have substantial professional experience and continuously enhance their skills to match the needs of the market will find it far easier to respond to emerging competitive pressures.

These mutually cancelling developments in the global market, coupled with domestic regulatory efforts primarily aimed at formalising the tax status of Serbian gig workers, affected the extent of their activities: at the time of measurement, no more than 23.3 percent had been active, in contrast to the 44.8 percent registered in the October survey. That said, at the time of measurement, business activity was fairly low across the region as well. The impact of the pandemic and seasonal fluctuations may have reduced the engagement rates of Serbian gig workers in the latest measurement. However, if the next survey also identifies a significantly reduced volume of activities, the causes behind such under-employment of platform workers will merit further investigation.

% OF GIG WORKERS BY ADMINISTRATIVE DISTRICT

One year of tracking Serbia’s gig population has seemingly revealed a stable regional pattern. Looking at the four regions across the country where platform workers live and work, the proportions remained virtually identical to those seen in previous measurements. Since this survey had by far the greatest coverage to date, the ratios could be measured more accurately. Vojvodina was home to 28.1 percent of all gig workers, with Belgrade hosting another 42.5 percent. Relative to the previous survey, the shares of Southern and Eastern Serbia and Šumadija and Western Serbia each saw a modest increase of 1 percent, primarily owing to the more accurate assessment made in the latest survey.

Some 65 percent of Serbian gig workers were located in the administrative centres of the four regions (Belgrade, Novi Sad, Niš, and Kragujevac). Interestingly, the relationship between these urban centres can be described as a ‘3-2-3’ ratio: Belgrade was home to three times as many gig workers as Novi Sad, which was in turn home to twice as many as Niš, which, lastly, had nearly three times as many as Kragujevac.

Including gig workers in these four administrative centres, there were only seven cities across the country where gig workers accounted for more than one percent of the total population. All of the other three were located in Vojvodina: Subotica (1.91 percent), Zrenjanin (1.30 percent), and Pančevo (1.73 percent). Another three cities in Šumadija and Western Serbia – Kraljevo, Čačak, and Kruševac – had shares of 0.98 percent each.

The key change from the previous survey was that, in this measurement, only Niš in Southern and Eastern Serbia was found to have a gig worker population exceeding 1 percent. Read more ...

. The key change from the previous survey was that, in this measurement, only Niš was found to have a gig worker population exceeding 1 percent. Leskovac, which numbered 1.6 percent in the previous measurement, was down to some 0.9 percent.


Interestingly, the relative shares of all regions in both the total gig worker population and in the population of only gig workers with confirmed experience of platform work (as indicated by revenue earned) increased, with the exception of Belgrade. Even though the Serbian capital was the largest pool of the new platform workforce, this feature was not particularly pronounced as its share in the gig worker population, including workers with no experience, increased by a mere 1.3 percent.

GIG WORKERS BY OCCUPATION

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The charts show the distribution of gig workers in Serbia by occupation, according to the Online Labour Index (OLI) classification. The latest survey revealed creative and multimedia services and software dev and tech have cemented their dominance. On average, 4 in 10 platform workers were active in creative and multimedia services, with 2.4 engaged in software development. The relative shares of these two occupations remained virtually unchanged.

Intriguingly, a major change has occurred in the past several months in the relative proportions of software dev and tech freelancers with and without experience on online platforms: in the latest measurement, for each well-established worker there were no more than 0.57 new entrants to the online market. This constituted a major drop relative to the previous survey, when the ratio had been 1:0.8. One possible reason could be the new (tax) regulations imposed on the community that made this option unattractive for new IT professional, who have instead been finding work with companies or seeking alternative arrangements with employers away from the mainstream online market. By contrast, the shares of new and old workers in other occupations remained largely stable.

The lower activity rates registered in the latest survey relative to the October 2020 measurement had a variety of consequences on the individual occupations.Read more ...
There was an across-the-board fall in the number of active individuals. Out of every 100 workers, 17 were active in professional services, 22 in sales and marketing support, 23 in clerical and data entry, and 26 in writing and translation. The highest activity rate was recorded for creative and multimedia services, 39 of 100, with IT seeing the lowest rate of only 16.

This decline in activity rates in some areas relative to the previous reporting period can be partly ascribed to the marked increase in demand (more assignments) seen globally in October, as identified in the multi-annual OLI survey.

REGIONAL GIG WORKERS AS % OF TOTAL, BY OCCUPATION

Regional shares in the total workforce remained the same as in previous surveys. Belgrade had the highest share relative to other regions across all occupations, an expected finding given its largest gig worker population.

The sheer size of Belgrade’s gig workforce meant that these freelancers dominated all occupations. Comparing percentages of gig workers from the various regions in the total population and their relative shares in each occupation allows regional comparative advantages to be identified, and some changes were found in this regard.

In the latest measurement, Belgrade was found to have a relative comparative advantage in professional services, sales and marketing support, and writing and translation, with professional services leading the field: as many as 54 percent of all gig workers in this occupation were based in the Serbian capital. At the same time, however, this category recorded the fewest gig workers in the total population, at a mere 3.9 percent. Since the previous survey, Belgrade has lost its advantage in software dev and tech, seemingly due to lucrative business opportunities for the capital’s IT experts in mainstream companies. Read more ...

The changes were even more pronounced in the Vojvodina region, where sales and marketing support and software dev and tech were the only occupations enjoying a competitive advantage. Vojvodina lost its advantage in clerical and data entry. However, this northern Serbian province is peculiar in that its comparative advantage is not especially pronounced in occupations where it has one, but neither does it lag far behind other regions in areas where its share is below-average. In other words, Vojvodina is closest to the national average distribution of gig workers by occupation.

Southern and Eastern Serbia enjoyed a comparative advantage in clerical and data entry work as well as creative and multimedia. This region lost its advantage in both professional services and sales and marketing support since the previous survey. Its greatest comparative advantage was evident in clerical and data entry, with nearly one in five Serbian gig workers in this occupation based in the region.

Šumadija and Western Serbia had a slim advantage in clerical and data entry, creative and multimedia, and software dev and tech. This finding, however, ought to be viewed in the context of the small share of this region’s gig workers in the overall population.

% OF REGIONAL GIG WORKERS BY OCCUPATION

The charts show the distribution of gig workers by occupation in each region. As in the previous survey, the largest share of the gig workforce was active in creative and multimedia, and the smallest in professional services. The difference found February 2021 was that other occupations became more homogeneous: in all regions, the sequence was the same, with second place reserved for software dev and tech, followed by clerical and data entry, writing and translation, and sales and marketing support. In the previous measurement, the order of occupations was different in each region, except for the first and last ranked ones.

GIG WORKERS BY GENDER

A notable distinction of the Serbian gig workforce is its high proportion of women, who accounted for 34.2 percent of the entire freelancer population. The share also saw slight growth.

In comparison with previous surveys, which had registered a continuous decline in the share of new women gig workers, the latest measurement saw this trend halted. For instance, women accounted for 30.5 percent of the total population of new gig workers in October 2020, whereas in February 2021 this figure rose to 31.27 percent. This partly reversed the long-standing downward trend in women’s participation identified in previous surveys.

% OF GIG WORKERS BY GENDER AND OCCUPATION

A look at the entire freelancer population reveals women were slightly more numerous than men in clerical and data entry (by 4 percentage points, pp), but much more so in writing and translation, where they outnumbered men by as much as 34.1 pp. Other occupations were all dominated by men, some moderately so, such as sales and marketing support (by 9.1 pp) and professional services (13.8 pp), whilst others were much less balanced – for instance, men outnumbered women by more than two to one in creative and multimedia. Male dominance was particularly pronounced in software dev and tech, where there were more than 6.5 men for every woman. It ought to be noted that, whilst male freelancers were predominantly concentrated in creative and multimedia and software dev and tech (74 percent of all men were active in these two occupations), women were much more regularly distributed across all occupations and only slightly more than one-half of them worked in these top two fields.Read more ...


Nearly 36 percent of all gig workers who had jobs at the time of the survey were women As many as 83 percent of all women worked in creative and multimedia (45 percent), clerical and data entry (19 percent), and writing and translation (19 percent). Conversely, one in two men were active in creative and multimedia, with a large proportion also doing software dev and tech work.

TOTAL INCOME BY GENDER

Incomes of gig workers disaggregated by gender reflected the gender structure of the gig population, dominated as it was by men, and, to a lesser extent, differences in earnings, which were higher for men. Even though women accounted for over 34.2 percent of the freelance workforce, their incomes amounted to just 26.1 percent of the total. Since this distribution of total income between men and women is subject to relatively little change over short periods of time, inequality in this respect is a relatively persistent feature.

HOURLY RATES, IN US$, BY GENDER AND OCCUPATION

 

As such, the downward trend in hourly rates first seen with the outbreak of the pandemic has been halted, even though this recently registered growth was only modest. Interestingly, two occupations bucked the general trend: these were the least well paid clerical and data entry jobs, on the one hand, and professional services, on the other. The average hourly rates in these two sectors fell by 0.23 and 1.76 cents, respectively. Software dev and tech saw the strongest recovery, where hourly rates increased by 5.3 percent.

By contrast, the median hourly rate stayed the same – at US$ 15 – as in the previous survey. This meant that the gap between Serbian freelancers and the global average also remained unchanged, since the median hourly rate for US gig workers was US$ 20. Read more ...

According to the latest measurement, both male and female median gig workers earned less than they did at the time of the previous survey . In October 2020, the difference between male and female median hourly rates was nearly US$ 5, whilst in February 2021 the difference fell dramatically to just US$ 3. In other words, the median female gig worker earned US$ 12, whereas her median male counterpart earned US$ 15. This development led to greater income equality in the gig market, and one reason for this may be that the increased global competition between freelancers caused better-paid male gig workers (in better-paid jobs) to reduce their hourly rates so they could find work (or at least do so more easily). Conversely, continuing convergence of hourly rates may be a dubious proposition, with men dominating better-paid occupations such as software dev and tech.
Perhaps the most significant and interesting change registered in this regard was the narrowing of the gap between the median hourly rates of new and experienced workers. Relative to the October 2020 survey, in the latest measurement the average rate demanded by new entrants was lower by US$ 2, or a mere 13 percent, than that charged by experienced freelancers. The difference was reduced by as much as 20 pp (down from 33 percent in the previous measurement). This could largely be the consequence of government intervention, with new tax rules meaning previous hourly rates no longer made it worthwhile for prospective gig workers to operate as freelancers in Serbia.

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