How ‘The Great Resignation’ is fueling Asia-Pacific’s gig economy

the great resignation freelance
Image by shisuka | Bigstockphoto

Driven by challenges in the new normal, Filipinos flock to a growing Facebook group called The Freelance Movement. The group now numbered around 48,000 members, is replete with stories of workers leaving their 9-5 office-based job for a work-from-home (WFH) set-up with multiple clients and significantly better pay.

Other Asia-Pacific countries are seeing similar trends. A recent survey by Microsoft shows that 1 in 2 employees in Singapore are exhausted and want a continued flexible remote work arrangement. Joanna Lim, Modern Work and Security Business Group Lead, Microsoft Singapore, says that in response, they have implemented work-from-home (WFH) as the default model and encourage other employers to revisit workplace culture and prioritize flexibility. The Singaporean workforce also has the unenviable title of being the unhappiest in the world according to another study.

Following return-to-work and return-to-normal announcements, employees around the world have somehow collectively decided that there are far better options than returning to their old desks. As such, thousands are giving notice and leaving their employers in what is now called ‘The Great Resignation.’

First studied by Anthony Klotz of the Texas A&M University, The Great Resignation or The Great Quit has resulted in employers seriously rethinking their return-to-work plans. ​However, despite companies like Apple offering a mandatory hybrid work policy, employees are still adamant that they should be able to choose how and from where they want to work.

Tapping into the gig economy

Moving into 2022, employers and HR leaders are inclined to provide the greatest flexibility and widest range of choices that won’t hurt their company’s bottom lines. This includes looking at the growing gig economy in Asia and how companies and governments can take advantage of the region’s burgeoning and young freelancer population.

Payoneer reports that the world’s top 5 fastest growing freelancing countries are the Philippines, India, Japan, Australia, and Hong Kong amidst the pandemic. What’s common among them is that they are all in Asia-Pacific, where gig economy transactions are projected to grow by a >17% CAGR to US$455 billion by 2023, around four-fifths of Thailand’s 2019 GDP.

The question is: can companies be confident enough in hiring freelancers amidst a rapidly evolving environment for work?

Some freelancing platforms, like Fiverr and Upwork, offer business solutions to vet, hire, and integrate freelancers into existing teams and department structures. Other companies have also cut costs by providing short-term contracts and consultancies or “renting” talent instead of hiring permanent employees.

The Great Resignation in Asia is still in its nascent stages. It may only be a drizzle, and freelancers may opt to retain their full-time jobs while doing gigs on the side. Or it may be a deluge, and companies need to shift their gears fast.

What’s clear is that from now until the end of 2021, HR offices in Asia will have to consider the worst-case scenario and create a workplace, physical or virtual, that caters to the diverse needs and preferences of today’s evolving workforce.

Relate article: The future of work in Singapore is distributed, flexible, and autonomous

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