FTW Pick: SA’s labour realities could rule out ‘gig’ economy

With South Africa’s unemployment rate currently at 27.7%, creating a ‘gig’ economy – a labour market characterised by freelance, flexible, on-demand work rather than the more traditional nine-to-five working model – seems like the perfect answer. But the country’s volatile labour realities, coupled with poor education, could stymie that particular pipe dream.

Amanda Arumugam, senior associate at law firm Bowmans, pointed out that instead of being paid a regular salary, workers were paid for each ‘gig’ they did. “Typically, workers in the gig economy find jobs by registering on websites or apps and signing up for what they want to do.”

She said the timing of jobs was more spontaneous, with apps and websites now automatically connecting people to deliver on requirements in real-time. Arumugam raised the question of exactly how many of these gig workers preferred the work to permanent employment, and how many simply could not find better pay or jobs elsewhere.

“With South Africa still recovering from recession and an unemployment rate of 27.7%, there’s no doubt that a lot of these gigs are performed because there is nothing better out there,” she commented.

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