Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 20 November 2019

Why the gig economy is all about embracing change

It is imperative to adapt in order for our economy to develop in tandem with the rest of the world

Members at the WeWork Cos. Iceberg co-working space in Tokyo, Japan. Freelancers are becoming a larger part of the modern workforce. Bloomberg
Members at the WeWork Cos. Iceberg co-working space in Tokyo, Japan. Freelancers are becoming a larger part of the modern workforce. Bloomberg

In my second year of studying for my mass communication degree, I learned about influencer marketing. The concept of companies hiring and paying individuals to promote a product or service was foreign to me. The landscape has markedly changed today.

My clients don’t consider traditional advertising channels unless they’re a well-known television channel or newswire. They only want to work with influencers. They want to know how they can leverage an influencer’s SnapChat and the cost of inviting one to visit their business. My 10-year-old cousin and her friends aspire to be influencers when they grow up. Their concept of careers is different from mine when I was growing up.

When I graduated from university, I attended a motivational talk where the speaker told us that we shouldn’t stay at one company for more than three years. That’s crazy, I thought to myself, as I had just started working at a government organisation and saw myself staying there for a while. I realised that in order to grow, one should continue to search for opportunities rather than settle into a comfort zone or job that doesn’t serve my development or career progression.

Entrepreneurship was not considered a career in my university days, but today it is a buzzword and an aspiration of many. According to the UAE’s Ministry of Economy, the number of SME companies operating in the UAE is expected to increase 70 per cent by 2021. Currently, they account for some 86 per cent of the private sector’s workforce.

Given the fast pace of change in the advent of the digital age, it’s imperative that we embrace change in order for our economy to develop in tandem with the rest of the world.

I know that my career will continue to change and evolve throughout my life. I already work with freelancers from around the world on different projects. Freelancing will increasingly become a viable career option for more people and companies in the UAE and the wider Gulf will come to consider working remotely a realistic option.

A study by Mckinsey estimated that by 2030, 50 per cent of the workforce in the United States will be freelancers. In Egypt, the gig economy is contributing nearly 40 per cent to the country’s GDP, according to a 2018 story in Egypt Today.

The digital age is about expanding options and disruption. Australian company Freelancer.com is the world’s largest freelancing platform, with over 30 million freelancers from around the world to do jobs in web development, graphic design, writing, even engineering and science.

Gofreelance – an initiative launched by Dubai’s Tecom Group, in association with Dubai Creative Cluster Authority - offers licenses for creative designers, film directors and executive coaches.

The Abu Dhabi Government, ahead of the curve, announced in December of last year that new companies and freelancers will be exempted from paying for business licences issued in the emirate for the next two years. The law, part of the Ghadan 21 Dh50 billion stimulus package, is aimed at attracting and retaining professionals in this evolving work landscape.

Integrating learning into our daily lives and letting go of traditional or conventional ways of doing things is a necessary paradigm shift of the future economy.

Updated: May 19, 2019 01:20 PM

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