GIGMETAR REPORT OCTOBER 2022
Gigmetar’s latest measurement covered a population of 11,596 gig workers, an increase of 14.5 percent. As the previous survey had registered similar growth (at 15.9 percent), the freelancer workforce increased overall by one-third over the past year.
Growth of freelancers from Serbia has continued on the most popular gig work platform – 14.5 percent, relative to the previous measurement
The latest survey has identified a shift in growth away from large urban centres to smaller settlements
Šumadija and Western Serbia recorded the highest rate ofgrowth, with these regions’ gig workforces increasing by close to one-third
Užice topped the growth charts after its freelancer population more than doubled
Writing and translation has seen the greatest increase (over 24 percent), with the smallest yet still significant growth (at 7.5 percent) registered in sales and marketing support
Men entering the gig workforce outnumbered women across all occupations, with the changes at their most visible in writing and translation (where the men to women ratio was 16 to 1)
Freelancers’ median hourly rates have rocketed to $18
The income gap has reached a historic low, with women commanding on average 85.6 percent of men’s hourly rates
RESULTS IN DETAILS
Two factors may have helped drive this growth: either the increasing popularity of gig work in the Serbian market, which would be consistent with the findings of Payoneer’s latest Global Freelancer Income Report, or a redistribution of gig work between platforms due to increasingly fierce competition. Other causes have also prompted an increase in the freelancer workforce and made it more attractive. These have included fast-paced technological development, which has made gig work more accessible globally; disruptive changes to companies’ business models that have forced them to keep seeking talent and human resources outside their own organisations to achieve growth, respond to competitive pressure, and engage in technology-driven transformation; and demographic changes and evolving preferences of new entrants to the workforce, who view freelancing as an attractive alternative for career-building. Lastly, incomes have increased due to the rising exchange rate of the dollar, the exchange currency in the gig work sector, with the US currency now worth 20 percent more against the Serbian dinar than a year ago. These trends have remained unchanged, notwithstanding the uncertainties surrounding the global economic recovery as the pandemic abates and the crisis caused by the war in Ukraine.
According to the latest measurement, 20.2 percent, or one-fifth, of all Serbian freelancers were working on a particular project at the time of the survey. This was on average 2.9 percentage points (pp) less than in the previous two rounds of measurement. The reasons behind this apparent contraction can be sought in fairly high levels of competition worldwide, with the supply of gig work potentially outstripping demand for it, the relatively high cost in terms of time invested in seeking work, and the burden of competing for work globally as opposed to looking for jobs in the conventional labour market.
The latest survey suggests women were again likelier than men to have work at the time of the measurement. Here, 36.8 percent of the freelancers engaged at the time of the survey were women, a percentage greater than their share in the overall gig workforce (of 32.8 percent). The most recent measurement also found a reduced percentage of continuously employed workers, meaning those who had work at the time of both the latest survey and the one preceding it: the figure plummeted from the high 85.2 percent recorded in the previous survey to 67.8 percent in the latest measurement. However, this variation was caused by the seasonal nature of gig work, being like the difference between August and February 2021 (when the rate had been 71.1 percent).
Interestingly, as in the previous survey, new entrants to the gig workforce were more likely to work in sales and marketing support and clerical and data entry. Also, more active were freelancers in writing and translation profession. This could reflect the greater demand for work in these sectors, which may have made jobs easier to come by, but could also have been caused by gig workers in these occupations being readier to rely on freelancing for career and professional development. By contrast, as in the previous measurement, new entrants were on average less active in software dev and tech and multimedia and creative.
% OF GIG WORKERS BY ADMINISTRATIVE DISTRICT
Continuous tracking of the gig workforce by region revealed the bulk of this population, 82.4 percent, lived and worked in 28 Serbian cities and towns. This corresponds to the findings of recent studies that suggest freelancers are highly concentrated in urban areas. Substantial gig worker concentration has been a staple of Serbia’s gig labour market. Emerging trends point to two developments. In contrast to the previous survey, in the latest measurement most freelancers were recorded as being based in smaller cities and settlements, which in turn caused the share of the urban gig workforce to decline. Nevertheless, all cities and towns in the survey, with the sole exception of Bor, saw their freelancer populations increase.
The robust growth of the national gig workforce has caused freelancer numbers to increase across all macro-regions at the NUTS2 level. This expansion was driven by Šumadija and Western Serbia, where the gig worker population increased by nearly one-third (29.6 percent), twice as much as in the previous measurement. In absolute terms, the increase nearly equalled that of Belgrade, a region with 2.6 times more inhabitants than Šumadija and Western Serbia. Southern and Eastern Serbia saw growth of 19.1 percent, making it the region with the largest gig population increase in the past year. More modest growth was recorded in Belgrade and Vojvodina, with 10.3 percent and 9.8 percent, respectively. These two regions, however, were home to an even two-thirds of the freelancer population. Read more ...
Not only does the latest measurement suggest gig work is becoming less urban-centric, but the findings indicate no more than 30 percent of the new entrants come from administrative centres, in contrast to the previous survey, when this share had stood at 67.1 percent. This development has meant Serbia’s four largest cities recorded only relatively slight growth, with Belgrade adding 6.5 percent, Niš 5.6 percent, Novi Sad 4.5 percent, and Kragujevac one-fifth. The fairly large increase in Kragujevac was the result of the relatively small number of gig workforce there, which was three times smaller than that of Niš, 4.5 times smaller in comparison with Novi Sad, and approximately 14.4 times smaller than the freelancer population of Belgrade.
As many as 35 percent of the country’s towns have recorded increases of more than a third each. In the latest survey, Užice has taken the lead, with the gig workforce there more than doubling as growth reached 102.3 percent. Exceptionally high growth rates, exceeding 50 percent, were registered in another three cities, namely Prokuplje (64.5 percent), Novi Pazar (63.8 percent), and Vranje (56.6 percent).Read more ...
GIG WORKERS BY OCCUPATION
Using the Oxford Internet Institute’s Online Labour Index (OLI) taxonomy, the charts show the distribution of gig workers by occupation. Even though creative and multimedia remains the dominant profession, the latest survey has revealed that writing and translation has attracted the most new freelancers, as many as 24 percent.
The rather similar growth trends for the various occupations have meant the shares of each occupation in the total freelancer population have remained stable. However, some incremental changes have nevertheless been recorded.
Specifically, except for the spike in the growth of writing and translation, other occupations expanded at a balanced rate. Here, an increase of 13.5 percent was registered for creative and multimedia, clerical and data entry, and software dev and tech. Read more ...
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 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.
Given the relatively modest increase in the gig workforce in Belgrade relative to the other regions, the latest measurement revealed the shares of freelancers based in the capital have shrunk across all occupations. In writing and translation the fall amounted to 4.6 pp, in professional services 3.3 pp, and in sales and marketing support the capital’s share declined by 3.2 pp. In clerical and data entry the fall was less pronounced, at 1.2 pp, and in the final two occupations it was even lower, with creative and multimedia edging down by 0.5 pp and software dev and tech remaining virtually unchanged after shrinking by 0.1 pp. This final figure can also be read in conjunction with the large increase in Belgrade’s software dev and tech gig workforce: the capital added more new freelancers in this occupation than Vojvodina and Southern and Eastern Serbia taken together. Read more ...
% OF REGIONAL GIG WORKERS BY OCCUPATION
The latest measurement has revealed the regions are becoming increasingly similar in terms of their gig workforce structures. Creative and multimedia was the most common occupation, (1), 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 trend was driven by the balanced influx of new freelancers across all regions. Belgrade has seen the smallest difference between the most numerous occupation (creative and multimedia) and the least popular one (professional services), with creatives outnumbering consultants by a factor of 5.8. By contrast, this spread was the greatest in Šumadija and Western Serbia, where the professional services group was 8.8 times smaller than the largest creative and multimedia category. Nationally, creative and multimedia outnumbers professional services by 7 to 1, unchanged from the previous measurement. This additionally serves to confirm the structure of occupations in the gig work market has remained stable over time. Read more ...
GIG WORKERS BY GENDER
Contrary to trends seen previously, the latest measurement found a drop in the share of women in the gig workforce to 32.8 percent, down from 36 percent in the previous survey. In spite of this major 3.2 pp reduction, the figure has remained much higher than the global average, which the Payoneer Global Freelancer Income Report currently puts at 29 percent. Unlike the previous survey, which had recorded growth of the women freelancer population amounting to as much as 17.7 percent, in latest measurement the increase was a mere 4.1 percent. By contrast, since overall workforce growth has been driven by an increase in the population of male gig workers – which has ballooned by as much as one-fifth in comparison with the previous measurement – the share of men in the freelance population has risen sharply.
Women gig workers with no income or registered experience in platform work accounted for 43.8 percent of the women freelancer population, whereas for every experienced gig worker there was another one lacking experience. Tellingly, men gig workers without experience outnumbered the entire female gig workforce. This suggests an interesting finding, that women gig workers had on average greater experience than their male counterparts, meaning they were more persistent at looking for and finding work.Read more ...
% OF GIG WORKERS BY GENDER AND OCCUPATION
Although the latest measurement registered a major increase in the gig workforce, this was primarily driven by the influx of new men freelancers. In contrast to the previous two surveys, when the market added many more women gig workers than was the case with their male counterparts, in the latest measurement the growth rate was far smaller: whilst the men freelancer population increased by 20 percent, only 4.1 percent more women joined the gig workforce. These developments are even more forcefully demonstrated by the fact that almost 9 out of 10 new gig workers were male.
In contrast to the previous two surveys, which recorded rising numbers of women gig workers across all occupations, although the overall workforce grew, the latest measurement registered a dip, albeit a modest one (2.3 percent) in sales and marketing support figures. The salient difference in the latest survey was the rapid growth of the female gig workforce in software dev and tech, the only occupation to see a double-digit increase (at 11.2 percent). Coupled with the nearly identical growth, in absolute terms, found in the previous measurement, this finding is particularly significant with demand for software developers spiking worldwide. Additionally, professional services also recorded a marked increase in women gig workers (at 9.5 percent), which was particularly significant as this group comprises the highest-earning women freelancers. Other occupations saw more modest shifts, with growth of 4.5 percent recorded in clerical and data entry, 4.4 percent in creative and multimedia, and 2.6 in writing and translation. 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
The latest measurement suggests official hourly rates – those listed by gig workers on their profiles – have continued to increase, even accelerating slightly. In the previous survey growth amounted to no more than 0.8 percent, whilst in the most recent measurement put the rate at 2.8 percent. Two facts are significant here. Inflation, present for some time and closely linked with the fallout from the pandemic, the war in Ukraine, and policies pursued until recently by the world’s leading monetary authorities, primarily the US Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank (ECB), has not caused an appreciable increase in incomes in the digital labour market. Fierce competition for gig work is one possible explanation for why prices have stagnated. It will be interesting to see whether the cost of online freelance labour increases to offset overall growth of prices. No such adjustment may jeopardise the long-term attractiveness of digital work.
Hourly rates saw more tangible gender-based changes. The average hourly rate for women stood at US$17.5, whilst for men it was US$20.2. However, the greater average growth in hourly rates for women freelancers meant the income gap narrowed further in the latest measurement, with the average woman gig worker now earning 86.5 percent of an average male freelancer’s hourly rate. The contraction of this gap bears out a trend found in previous surveys, which is important for two reasons. Firstly, gender-based differences in income are smaller in Serbia than globally, where Payoneer’s Global Freelancer Income Report puts women’s hourly rates at 82 percent of those earned by men, and Bloomberg finding an even broader gap, with women earning on average as much as 48 percent less than men. The latest survey has confirmed a familiar but peculiar feature of Serbia’s gig labour market, namely that, despite the global divergence in incomes, the country has been closing the earnings gap. Read more ...
Recommended citation: Anđelković, B., Jakobi, T., Ivanović, V., Kalinić, Z. & Radonjić, Lj. (2022). Gigmetar Serbia, October 2022, Public Policy Research Center, http://gigmetar.publicpolicy.rs/en/serbia-2022-2/.
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.