Rein­vent­ing the no­tion of em­ploy­ment

China Daily (Canada) - - ANALYSIS - By KARL WIL­SON

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.

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