GIGMETAR REPORT AUGUST 2021

The latest issue of Gigmetar, which analyses data from the most popular global platform, features findings of research on a sample of 8.737 individuals. The active gig worker population has grown by 3.2 percent relative to the previous measurement (done in February). Serbia has evidently remained a country where digital work is highly popular, a trait it shares with the broader region (given that Europe, including Russia, accounts for 46 percent of the global gig workforce).

HIGHLIGHTS

The latest measurement recorded a 3.2 percent increase on February 2021 in number of Serbian workers on the most widely used platform.

Šumadija and Western Serbia and Southern and Eastern Serbia, which  have the lowest shares of gig workers in the total population, are in latest measurement a major pool of the platform workforce, and now are having a share of 30.4 percent of all gig workers in the country.

Outside the four large urban centres (Belgrade, Novi Sad, Niš and Kragujevac), Subotica led the way with a 17.4 percent increase in registered workers over the past six months. The city accounted for 2.17 percent of Serbia’s total active gig workforce.

The increase in workers on the leading digital platform was mainly due to growing numbers of women in the workforce across all regions. This upward trend was at its most evident in Šumadija and Western Serbia, where women outnumbered men 2.7 times among new gig workers.

The share of women platform workers without experience in the total female gig workforce (both with and without experience) was nearly equal to the share of men gig workers in the total male platform workforce. In both cases one in three had no previous experience with this kind of work.

Writing and translation have seen explosive growth (up 21.6 percent on the previous measurement). This development could be due to the slowdown in the Chinese market, which in all likelihood steered Serbian gig workers away from specialised language learning platforms to general ones that are tracked by Gigmetar.

There are now as many occupations in which women are in the majority as there are those dominated by men (3 vs 3), but women are in the lead in less well paid areas (professional services, clerical and data entry, and writing and translation), whilst men much more commonly perform better paid work (creative and multimedia, software dev and tech, and sales and marketing support).

The latest measurement has revealed hourly rates have been continuing to increase, albeit at a modest rate of no more than 1 percent. Whilst the average hourly rate for men has not changed since the previous survey (remaining at US$ 19.74), the women’s rate has increased by 4.1 percent.

RESULTS IN DETAILS

In spite of the uncertainties haunting the world’s economy, caused above all by the Covid-19 pandemic and the economic upheaval resulting from the associated global supply chain disruptions, the gig worker market has continued to grow. New technologies and the normalisation of working from home have made work usually done by freelancers commonplace for most white collar professionals throughout the world. The latest Global Survey on Freelancing reveals that the population of freelance workers in the USA, for whom online work is actually regular employment and sole source of income, doubled to 15 million between 2018 and 2021 alone. The reasons for these trends are the associated cost advantage, time advantage in terms of worker flexibility and availability, performance advantage resulting from the ability to access top talent, strategic and risk advantage, and other contextual factors whose significance varies between countries.

The uncertainty posed by the global environment ​and lack of clarity with the national regulatory framework, continues ​to increase the worldwide growth of the gig worker population. ​This in turn increases competition for the Serbian gig workforce​, hav​ing created a highly challenging environment for Serbian gig workers. Even though the last measurement saw a 3.2 percent increase in Serbian gig workers on the most widely used platform relative to February 2021, the number of gig workers performing concrete tasks/projects (​throughout our data ​collection) has generally declined (23,8%) in comparison with October 2020, when 44.8 percent of gig workers were active at the time of measurement. A multitude of factors can explain this (relatively) low level of activity, ​such as: seasonal fluctuations in gig work, regulatory risks that emerged in the intervening period, greater global competition and increased difficulty in finding work, a relatively favourable situation in the traditional labour market ​(particularly for IT workers​), and, finally, the fact that platform work is a secondary source of income for the majority of Serbian gig workers.

As many as 71.1 percent of those in employment six months previously were also engaged on projects at the time of the latest measurement. However, comparing their number with the total gig worker population tracked suggests that no more than 16.9 percent were continuously employed in the past six months.

% OF GIG WORKERS BY ADMINISTRATIVE DISTRICT

Two years on since Gigmetar first began systemic, large-scale tracking of the Serbian gig workforce, it seems that regional platform worker patterns have become firmly entrenched. However, although the latest measurement has generally revealed only minor changes, some significant transformations have also occurred.

The latest measurement revealed an increase in active gig workers across all regions. This trend was particularly pronounced in Šumadija and Western Serbia and in Southern and Eastern Serbia, usually home to fewer platform workers than the leading regions of Belgrade and Vojvodina. Šumadija and Western Serbia recorded major growth of close to 10 percent relative to the previous measurement, whilst Southern and Eastern Serbia registered a more modest increase of 4.3 percent. Measurements done to date suggest a continuous upward trend in less well represented regions, with the two areas expected to remain major pools from which new gig workers can be drawn in the future. Read more ...The increase may have partly occurred in response to the relatively poor state of the traditional labour market in these two regions, as well as being due to limited regional awareness of the opportunities offered by online work. In contrast, even though Belgrade and Vojvodina have seen a drop in their relative share of gig workers in the total, the capital and the northern province remain home to 7 out of 10 active gig workers in the country.

Changes to gender structure are also interesting to observe from a regional perspective. The entire gig population has grown thanks to an increase in women platform workers – of nearly 6 percent – relative to the previous measurement. Growth was mainly driven by an increase in women in Šumadija and Western Serbia as well, where women outnumbered men amongst new entrants by a factor of 2.7. In the remaining two regions, Vojvodina and Southern and Eastern Serbia, men were more numerous than women in the intake of new gig workers, with the difference somewhat more pronounced in Vojvodina. All changes other than these were minor in scope.

Looking at developments in regional urban centres, the most interesting difference was the drop, albeit a slight one, in gig workers in Novi Sad, accompanied by a minimal increase in other regional hubs. This suggests not only that there has been an increase in the gig workforce, but also that this growth has been distributed throughout the smaller cities and towns across all three regions. For instance, no more than 8.7 percent of the increase in Šumadija and Western Serbia came from the growth in Kragujevac, the local administrative centre.

Freelancer populations have virtually remained the same in Serbia’s top ten cities (excluding regional administrative centres), or have in some cases registered slight growth. The only exceptions were provided by Subotica, where the number of active workers rose by as much as 17.4 percent over the past six months, and Kraljevo, which also grew appreciably (by 9.6 percent). In the latest findings, cities and towns with significant gig worker populations (defined as above 1 percent) were Kruševac (1.19 percent), Kraljevo (1.04 percent) and Čačak (1.01 percent) in Šumadija and Western Serbia. Conversely, in Southern and Eastern Serbia, only Leskovac (at 0.83 percent) boasted a noticeable gig workforce apart from Niš, but its share was also on the decline. In Vojvodina, the rapid growth of Subotica now means this city accounts for 2.17 percent of Serbia’s total active gig worker population, with other major centres of freelance work including Pančevo (at 1.62 percent), although trending downwards, and Zrenjanin (1.27 percent).

GIG WORKERS BY OCCUPATION

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The charts show the distribution of gig workers in Serbia by occupation, according to the OLI classification. The latest measurement has re-affirmed the finding that creative and multimedia and software dev and tech remain Serbia’s dominant freelance occupations, even though the software development field is still twice as small as creative and multimedia. The shares of these two occupations have remained almost unchanged from the previous measurement.

The main changes registered in the latest survey involve the upward and downward trends in some of these occupations. Professional services, clerical and data entry, and writing and translation have all grown. Not all of the fields, however, have seen linear and equal increases. Read more ... Specifically, writing and translation have registered quite explosive growth of as much as 21.6 percent in comparison with the previous measurement. This change may have been caused by the sharp drop in demand for online language teaching in China, one of the largest global markets for freelancers in this field and a major source of work for Serbian gig workers. The language skills of these professionals led them to shift to alternative online marketplaces, which in our case was Upwork. A similar explanation can be provided for the significant growth in professional services in both absolute and relative terms (+9.2 percent), although this rate was still lower than for writing and translation. The reason for this was that professional services, considered more broadly, include education or teaching. Clerical and data entry was the third occupation that recorded substantial growth of as much as 15.5 percent relative to the previous measurement. Even though this occupation required less sophisticated skills – a fact reflected in the lowest hourly rates of any profession it is able to command – clerical and data entry has nevertheless proved capable of attracting significant new entrants in the past six months.code>

The remaining three occupations – creative and multimedia, software dev and tech, and sales and marketing support – have all contracted. The change with creative and multimedia was virtually negligible (at ≈-1 percent), whilst software dev and tech (-3.8 percent) and sales and marketing support (-4.7 percent), although small, both pointed to the same trend. The fall in the software dev and tech gig workforce, equivalent to the loss of a medium-sized company (76 active workers fewer were registered than in the previous measurement), can be explained by favourable developments in the traditional labour market, where software experts are in high demand. In contrast, the decline in creative and multimedia and sales and marketing requires more investigation and is certainly the outcome of a multitude of factors.

REGIONAL GIG WORKERS AS % OF TOTAL, BY OCCUPATION

One rule of 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 online labour 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, the region with the largest proportion of gig workers across all occupations, has seen its share decrease for all professions except clerical and data entry. This decline has been at its most noticeable in sales and marketing support (at 3.7pp) and professional services (2.3pp). Even the share of writing and translation has fallen (by 0.8pp), even though this occupation recorded huge growth, of 15.9 percent, at the national level. The likeliest explanation is that the increase in this occupation has been even more pronounced in other parts of the country, highlighting the generalised large-scale changes in this occupation relative to other sectors across Serbia. Read more ...

Vojvodina, the region ranked second for its workforce, has seen changes that were both more balanced and much less dramatic in their extent. Three occupations – professional services, clerical and data entry, and software dev and tech – have seen their shares decline, with each of the other three occupations registering a slight increase. Once again, the total clerical and data entry workforce has increased whilst Vojvodina’s share of these workers has fallen. This finding again bears out the fact that the occupation has witnessed major growth at the national level, with an even more pronounced increase in other regions.

Southern and Eastern Serbia has recorded an increase its share of the gig workforce in professional services, sales and marketing support (where the growth reached as much as 2.6pp), and software dev and tech, whilst seeing a slight decline in the other three occupations. Although creative and multimedia has contracted, the share of this region’s workforce in the total for this occupation has remained virtually unchanged, due to a much greater loss of creative and multimedia freelancers in other regions.

The least numerous gig worker population of the Šumadija and Western Serbia region has registered growth comparable to the national average. Here, the greatest increase occurred in writing and translation (2pp), and the lowest in creative and multimedia. Interestingly, the share of creative and multimedia freelancers has increased relatively with a contraction in absolute number of workers, albeit a small one, revealing the magnitude of the decline of gig workers in the creative and multimedia workforce across Serbia as a whole.

% OF REGIONAL GIG WORKERS BY OCCUPATION

The charts show the distribution of gig workers by occupation in each region. As in the previous measurement, the largest share of gig workers in all regions was active in creative and multimedia, and the smallest in professional services. Put differently, creative and multimedia freelancers outnumbered those in professional services by a factor of 9.5.

Most regions followed the same pattern for their shares of particular occupations. Creative and multimedia was the most numerous occupation in all regions, whilst workforces were the lowest for professional services everywhere. Software dev and tech are second, and sales and marketing support fifth. Read more ...

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.

Comparative advantages (meaning situations where particular professions boasted greater shares on regional level when compared to the national level) have registered only minor changes due to the modest growth in the gig workforce over the past six months. Relative to the previous measurement, no differences were in evidence in either Belgrade or Southern and Eastern Serbia. The country’s capital enjoyed a comparative advantage in professional services, sales and marketing support, and writing and translation, whilst the south and east of the country had an advantage in clerical and data entry and sales and marketing support.

By contrast, some changes were found in the other two regions. Vojvodina retained its comparative advantage in professional services relative to the February findings but at a dramatically reduced level, whilst its advantage in software dev and tech remained unchanged. Conversely, the region lost its comparative advantage in sales and marketing support but gained a modest one in creative and multimedia. Šumadija and Western Serbia both kept and increased its comparative advantage in clerical and data entry and software dev and tech but lost it in creative and multimedia. Finally, this region gained a modest comparative advantage in writing and translation.

GIG WORKERS BY GENDER

A notable distinction of the Serbian gig workforce is its relatively high proportion of women, who accounted for 35.4 percent of the entire freelancer population, continuing an upward trend identified in the previous measurement. The figure, however, has remained below the 37 percent share of women worldwide as identified in the latest Global Survey on Freelancing.

The latest measurement revealed an interesting finding: one-third of all women gig workers had no previous experience (meaning they had not previously worked on any projects on the platform), whilst two-thirds did have some experience. The same percentages were found for men freelancers, where, again, one-third had no experience and two-thirds had worked on projects on the online marketplace. This result is all the more important in that it deviates from the traditional labour market pattern where women find it more difficult to get work and are much more likely to be unemployed.

% OF GIG WORKERS BY GENDER AND OCCUPATION

In the latest measurement, the female gig workforce grew by an average rate more than twice as great as that of overall population (7 percent for women vs 3.2 for overall population). The number of women gig workers remained virtually unchanged in software dev and tech and creative and multimedia but fell by 11.8 percent in sales and marketing support. Growth was registered by the other occupations, most notably by writing and translation (21.6 percent) and, to a slightly lesser extent, professional services (17 percent) and clerical and data entry (14.6 percent).

At no more than 1.2 percent, the male freelancer population grew minimally. The gig workforce declined in two occupations in which men freelancers greatly outnumbered women, namely software dev and tech (-4.1 percent) and creative and multimedia (-2.1 percent). Whilst the number of gig workers in professional services and sales and marketing support remained virtually unchanged, it increased by 21.3 percent in writing and translation and by 16.4 percent in clerical and data entry.Read more ...

The latest measurement also revealed differences in gender structures between the various occupations. Women now outnumber men in an additional area, professional services, as well as in clerical and data entry and writing and translation. Men were more numerous in the remaining three occupations, creative and multimedia, marketing and sales support, and software dev and tech. The two genders, however, differed in the extent of their dominance. Whereas women were significantly more numerous in writing and translation (by 34.1 percent, the same as in the previous measurement), they accounted for only a tiny proportion of the workforce in occupations with a greater presence of men: in software dev and tech men outnumbered women by a factor of 7.3, in creative and multimedia there were more than twice as many men and women, and in marketing and sales support the difference amounted to 20.6 percent in favour of men.

Relative in the previous measurement, not only were women more numerous in professional services, but the gender gap has also narrowed in the other two occupations where men were more numerous, albeit by very little. This suggest two trends are in evidence: firstly, the increase in active female gig workers has outstripped their male peers, and, secondly, the growth is not concentrated in any single occupation but is rather balanced across all professions equally.

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 the share of women in the total freelance workforce rose in the latest measurement by 1.2pp to 35.4 percent, their incomes increased only slightly, from 26.1 in February to 27.2 percent in the latest survey. Although this distribution of total income between men and women is subject to relatively little change over short periods of time, the increase in the women’s share of income was caused by the simultaneous operation of three factors: their increased number (+7 percent), greater activity (at the time of the measurement women were over-represented in the active population relative to their representation in the total population, whose share reached 36.7 percent of all gig workers performing actual tasks/projects), and higher average hourly rates, which rose only for the female workforce (their average official or demanded hourly rate increased by 4.1 percent).

HOURLY RATES, IN US$, BY GENDER AND OCCUPATION

The latest measurement has revealed a continued upward trend in incomes, even though hourly rates rose by a modest 1 percent. Differences were, however, visible in this area as well: this growth was not distributed equally by either gender or occupation.

Whereas the men’s hourly rate did not change relative to the previous measurement (remaining at US$ 19.74), the rate for women increased by 4.1 percent, significantly narrowing the gender gap. In the latest survey, women earned on average 84.1 percent of the average wage for men, as compared to 80.8 percent in the previous measurement. The current figure is the historic high (since measurements first began two years ago).

An upward trend in hourly rates was recorded across all occupations. This growth, however, was not distributed equally by occupation, with only professional services seeing a significant increase, of 6.5 percent. At the monthly level, assuming full working hours (176 hours per month) and the average wage, a freelancer could earn US$ 250 more in August than in February 2021. Slightly smaller growth rates were recorded for clerical and data entry (4.1 percent), sales and marketing support (3.2 percent), and software dev and tech (3.5 percent), with earnings in the other two occupations increasing by no more than 1.5 percent. Read more ...

The increase in women’s incomes by occupation followed the trends present in the entire population but was much more pronounced. Again, assuming full working hours in August, a woman freelancer was able to earn US$ 555 more in that month than in February in professional services, US$ 166 more in creative and multimedia, US$ 118 in sales and marketing support, US$ 147 in software dev and tech, US$ 128 in writing and translation, and, lastly, no more than US$ 45 in clerical and data entry.

Average hourly rates for male population declined in some occupations and increased in others. Freelancers could earn less in professional services and creative and multimedia (both falling by 1 percent), as well as in writing and translation (where the decrease was more pronounced at 2.5 percent). Conversely, clerical and data entry saw a significant increase (at 6 percent), with lower growth in hourly rates also registered for software dev and tech (3.5 percent) and sales and marketing support (1.8 percent).


By contrast, the median hourly rate has remained the same as in the two previous measurements, at US$ 15. Nevertheless, the rate for women has increased to US$ 13, narrowing the gap separating it from the rate commanded by men gig workers, which has not changed relative to the February measurement (at US$ 15).

Interestingly, the broad distribution has remained the same as in February: 56.9 percent of the freelancer population command less than the median hourly rate of US$ 15. Some changes are in evidence by decile, with the third decile (hourly rates of between US$ 10.30 to US$ 12) seeing 8.9 percent growth in the number of workers, and the top decile (US$ 35.78 to US$ 250) registering an 8.5 percent increase.

A variety of conclusions can be drawn depending on which aspect of the hourly rate distribution is observed. Most women gig workers are concentrated in the third decile, whereas men freelancers are mainly located in the fifth decile. According to this criterion – the decile with the most women or men gig workers – women certainly found themselves in a less favourable position: not only did they work for lower (official) hourly rates, but the majority of women freelancers also worked for a rate significantly below the median. In contrast, most men gig workers earned an hourly rate close to the median. Differences between men and women were present across all deciles but were comparable. It was in the top two deciles (top 20 percent of gig workers by hourly rates) that the differences were at their most pronounced: women accounted for no more than 26.4 percent of the total freelancer population earning the highest official hourly rates.

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