By creating new opportunities, increasing flexibility, and promoting decent work, the gig economy is transforming Malaysia’s labor market. Freelancers or independent contractors perform short-term jobs as part of the gig economy. The gig economy has seen an increase in freelance jobs in Malaysia, such as ride-hailing, e-commerce delivery, and computer programming.
These increased opportunities lead to workers now being able to work remotely from home or other locations. This allows individuals with family responsibilities or other obligations to schedule their work hours more flexibly. Individuals with a variety of skills can also find employment opportunities in the gig economy. As a result, more people have access to decent working conditions, including higher wages and more flexible working hours. In fact, EMIR Research’s findings in 2020 showed that close to 26 per cent of Malaysia’s workforce equivalent to four million freelancers out of a total workforce of 15.1 million work in the gig economy.
This article examines how the gig economy is reshaping Malaysia’s labour market and how it contributes to decent employment opportunities.
The benefits of the gig economy in Malaysia
Beyond its general benefits, the gig economy has several specific advantages for the Malaysian context.
In the first place, it has the potential to reduce income inequality. The gig economy is likely to provide Malaysian workers with more regular and stable incomes over the long term. It is especially true for women, who currently make up a small percentage of gig workers, but who may grow as the industry matures.
The gig economy can also increase productivity and reduce costs for small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) and freelancers in the country. For Malaysia to maintain its current growth trajectory while avoiding the “middle-income trap,” greater productivity and competitiveness are key factors.
Malaysians have more opportunities to earn additional income through gig work as well. When prices fluctuate or unexpected expenses arise, workers may find it helpful to diversify their income sources. With the gig economy, our workforce has the opportunity to supplement their income by working after work or on weekends without compromising their primary employment.
The challenges of the gig economy in Malaysia
Although the gig economy has the potential to resolve many of Malaysia’s underemployment problems, several challenges still remain.
In order to maximise the benefits of this program, the nation must first be informed and educated about it. There are still many workers and employers who are unfamiliar with this type of employment arrangement. However, the situation can and should be improved through greater public awareness campaigns and efforts to inform both employers and employees.
It is also necessary to improve the quality of data and statistics related to the gig economy. Using this information, policymakers, researchers, and other stakeholders will be able to design policies and regulations that support workers and employers across the country. There is no single source of accurate and detailed information regarding the number of gig economy workers or employers at this time.
The gig economy should also be the subject of social dialogue between regulators, policymakers, and employees. By engaging in a robust dialogue, different stakeholders will have a better understanding of the gig economy, as well as their respective roles and responsibilities within it. In addition, it will provide a platform for everyone to voice their concerns and suggestions for improvements, ensuring that the gig economy benefits everyone as much as possible.
In Malaysia, policymakers can support the growth and development of the gig economy in a number of ways.
They can begin by improving the regulatory framework for the gig economy. In order to ensure a level playing field for all workers, regardless of the type of work they perform, Malaysian labour law, regulations, and policies must be updated to reflect the new realities of the Malaysian labour market. To achieve this goal, there should be social dialogues regarding the gig economy in order to gain a shared understanding among stakeholders. As a result of these engagements, future policy discussions will be based on the results of these engagements, and regulatory frameworks will be informed by the results of these engagements.
In addition, local skills development centres may offer training on best practices for gig workers who are new to the industry. In addition, this support can provide gig workers with the opportunity to network with other like-minded professionals.
Finally, policymakers can facilitate workshops and engagements to employers, particularly SMEs, on the benefits and challenges of participating in the gig economy. From these policy recommendations, both employers and workers may be able to benefit from the gig economy in Malaysia.
In a rapidly changing, tech-embracing world that is advancing into new frontiers (such as the metaverse), companies are on a journey to stay competitive, stay relevant, and continue to develop, or risk being left behind.
We at FastCo realise this. Since our establishment in 2015, our team in Malaysia and Singapore has been working non-stop to constantly bring innovations to our clients and users, all in our mission of providing meaningful employment opportunities to the community. In the context of work and the future, there is no doubt that the landscape will constantly evolve. We believe that it is not enough to respond, we have to lead.
The birth of FastJobs and, more recently, FastGig is a testament to this. As a result, FastCo provides a social safety net for freelancers through FastGig. The company negotiates for fair hourly rates, provides workers with workplace insurance, and advocates for a safe and healthy working environment.
That being said, we also want a changed outlook in terms of how people are looking at gig work, especially for the MSS (manual, service industries, semi-skilled) labour force and B40 communities. It is our goal to help uplift their livelihood by helping them take ownership of their work and instil a sense of pride in their job. Apart from that, FastCo will continue to champion the benefits for our freelancers via FastGig to provide a safety net for our freelancers, socially and financially.
Our efforts have resulted in a significant percentage of our freelancer pool consisting of women, as the pandemic has disproportionately impacted women. As a result, giggers have no longer been hampered by the covid year gap on their CVs and can start working without nerve-wracking interviews.
FastJobs Malaysia recently received Gold for the Best New Recruitment Firm Award in the 2022 Vendor of the Year Award, as well as Bronze for the Best Recruitment Portal; a testament to the work that we do and at the same time a sign that our mission is far from over. We believe that we can go higher and touch more lives.
About the author: Joelle Pang (pictured above) is the general manager of FastJobs Malaysia.This is an opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of this publication.
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