Reinventing the notion of employment
For much of the 20th century, full-time employment was the norm. Not anymore.
The 21st is fast shaping up as the century where part-time becomes the most common work status as more and more full-time jobs are either outsourced or simply disappear as technology takes over.
You are seeing it more in both advanced and developing economies — in the retail, manufacturing and leisure sectors — part-time workers or workers on short-term contracts are replacing full-time employees.
That is why ride-sharing company Uber has been so successful: It employs just a few people as fulltime office workers while all drivers are part-time. The result is a vastly reduced wage bill.
Usually, labor costs are a fixed cost. While the size of the workforce may vary from year to year, the cost is constant.
But in the sharing economy, labor has become just another commodity that can be bought and used when needed.
Throughout the world today, many companies prefer to cut fulltime workers and instead hire parttime workers. It is cost-effective as it means employers can pick and choose who they employ and when.
One of Asia- Pacific’s biggest recruitment agencies, Hays, said as needed.
Looking ahead, a significant 66 percent of employers intend to continue their use of temporary staffing this year.
Flexible work options are also gaining popularity across Asia, with 70 percent of the employers surveyed offering flexible work hours and 49 percent allowing some employees to work from home, known as ‘flex-place’, according to Hays.
A further 29 percent of employers offer part-time employment opportunities; 19 percent increased maternity/paternity leave; 16 percent career breaks; 13 percent flexible leave options; 10 percent job sharing; and 2 percent phased retirement.
“Given the speed of change most organizations have to navigate in today’s global business environment, being able to tap into a flexible workforce is vital to staying competitive,” said Christine Wright, Hays’ managing director for Asia.
“Job tenures are decreasing and careers develop by moving organizations to gather additional experience rather than staying with one or two employers for an entire career, making temporary and contract assignments an ideal way to do this,” she told China Daily.
“At the same time, Asian employers are focusing more attention on the way people want to work. Our research shows work-life balance is increasingly important to candidates across Asia, making policies such as flexible hours and leave options a great way for employers to stand out,” said Wright.
Greg Unsworth, digital business leader at PwC Singapore, said the sharing economy is “replacing” fulltime work.
“Of course there are challenges such as payment and worker protection, regulation and taxation,” he said.
The sharing economy “will grow in importance, especially in the labor market”, Unsworth said.
“It doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing either. You find people who have had distinguished careers seeking a more flexible lifestyle and going freelance gives them that opportunity.”
Unsworth admitted there will be problems in the freelance world.
“One obvious (problem) will be an increase in the supply of labor — professional and trade. This will create strong competition and put pressure on pricing.
“I think this will be one of the big challenges going forward,” he said.
Forbes magazine earlier this year claimed there were 53 million freelancers in the United States and that by 2020 some 50 percent of the US workforce would be freelancers.
A commuter uses a smartphone app for a ride-sharing service in Singapore.