Our working culture has changed significantly in the form of diversified innovations using the digital technology platform. It is estimated that one million Malaysians have joined the gig economy for income.
According to one recent study, 35 per cent of youths aged between 18 and 35 are working in the gig economy, with 60 per cent making it their primary source of income.
This is a gig economic innovation that has exploded and is increasingly trending in the country. Ironically, it is an indirect positive consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic and the Movement Control Order.
In general, apart from being called freelance workers or part-timers, the workforce in the gig economy is also known as project-based workers.
College students, in particular, can now work in the gig economy such as e-hailing services, food delivery, space rentals such as Airbnb, and content creation, including generating revenue as influencers on digital platforms like YouTube.
Thus, there is a gig economy phenomenon globally, including in Malaysia, making the sector a new and important source of income.
In fact, the government realises that the solution to unemployment is to start new economic innovation measures such as revamping the syllabus and incorporating learning, as well as improving the skills needed to prepare young people to venture into the gig economy.
According to the 2021 Economic Outlook Report released by the Finance Ministry, in line with the rise of the gig economy, institutions of higher learning need to shift away from teaching and learning systems that focus only on producing students to be employed.
The workforce must be equipped with skills to support the gig economy, say analysts. That includes providing more training in software and technology development, creative and multimedia work, data entry and analysis, as well as writing and translation.
According to the report, the government has launched the Global Online Workforce (GLOW) training programme via the Malaysian Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) with an allocation of RM25 million, as well as the myGIG programme to
enable Malaysians to generate higher income through digitalisation.
Encouragingly, up to August last year, there were 140 platforms that provided opportunities for gig and independent workers with an estimated 540,000 active workers in Malaysia.
Grab and Foodpanda continue to record an increase in the number of employees, in addition to around 190,000 employees who work as riders and drivers on various logistics platforms.
This suggests that most millennials more likely will not engage in traditional employment
because the gig economy offers greater freedom and flexibility, in line with their aspirations.
A study by the Zurich-University of Oxford in 2018 found that 38 per cent of respondents in Malaysia who worked full time wanted to venture into the gig economy in the next 12 months. The rise of the millennial generation and digital technology is a major factor contributing to this surge.
The gig economy workers also have high hopes for their welfare with the government allocating RM75 million for the following measures:
FIRST, a grant of RM50 million in the form of matching funds will be allocated for the gig economy platform to contribute to its employees under the Socso Occupational Disaster Scheme and the EPF i-Remuneration Scheme; and,
SECOND, an allocation of RM25 million to MDEC for the GLOW programme aimed at assisting Malaysians to generate income online through international clients.
This is a timely and noble move as serious attention for the long-term gig economic development plan needs to be carefully coordinated through the National Employment Special Committee comprising the finance and human resources ministers, with representatives from the private and public sectors.
Now is the time for Malaysia to offer flexibility, including attractive incentives and tax exemptions to e-commerce, e-hailing, p-hailing, e-banking and other operators in the diverse business world, especially digital technology-based services.
Therefore, business innovation and investment can be achieved by focusing on new-generation technologies such as artificial intelligence,drone technology, financial technology (FinTech) and blockchain technology.
Lastly, continuing to modernise the digital economy will help make Malaysia the mainstay of digital Asean with gig economy as the pillar of employment and economic growth in the future.