The Gig Economy is here and growing

By Alan Wong | Tuesday, 03 Jul 2018

A global shift in the changing nature of employment has given rise to the so-called gig economy, widening the scope for individuals to exert greater control over when, where and who they work for and providing employers with the flexibility to hire talent to perform particular tasks or undertake specific short-term projects.

The changing work landscape in Hong Kong

Mirroring the global trend, according to a Hong Kong Legislative Council Secretariat report, from 1999 to 2015, Hong Kong saw a 40% increase in the size of its flexible workforce. “The 2018 PERSOLKELLY APAC Workforce Insights - Gig Economy: How Free Agents are Redefining Work” survey , which surveyed 9,000 hiring managers and job candidates between the ages of 20 and 70, from Australia, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, reveals that Hong Kong leads the way when it comes to embracing the concepts of the gig economy in the Asia-Pacific region.

Among Hong Kong employee respondents, 55% reported they are looking for a flexible contract-based role instead of a traditional permanent full-time position. This compares to 43% for the entire Asia-Pacific region, and by country, 37% in Australia, 36% in both India and Malaysia and 47% in Singapore.

In Hong Kong, banking and finance, retail and IT outsourcing companies continue to be the predominant users of contract staff, while front-line sales, event promoters, back-office roles and IT industries are the industry sectors where contract workers are most in demand.

Flexibility a key factor

While the gig economy is not yet widespread, it is gaining traction – with age proving to be the main differentiator of attitudes and behaviour. Today’s younger generation of workers are inclined to be less committed to the idea of working for one employer for life and more intent on directing their own careers. Flexibility is also a key driver for those seeking a new employment experience, with each generation placing value on what flexibility offers for its own specific reasons.

The pros and cons

While Hong Kong employers and employees both welcome the principles of the gig economy, they also hold reservations about the pros and cons that gig-style work may create. A main concern for employers is their ability to effectively integrate contingent workers into their workforce.

According to KellyOCG’s “Workforce Agility Barometer”:

  • 66% of employers are concerned about the retention of intellectual property within their organisations
  • 59% are worried about protecting confidential information and data security.
  • 38% of employees raised concerns about the loss of job protection and access to health benefits.

In addition, a significant number of contingent workers feel that staff employed on freelance or contract terms are an expense instead of an asset and are treated differently than permanent staff. Among the more frequent examples is being excluded from learning and development and career advancement opportunities. Contingency workers also report being assigned tasks that permanent staffs do not want to handle.

HR practitioners may need to review internal policies, which in some cases have impeded creativity and progress in harnessing talent to drive their organisations forward. Faced with new talent management challenges, they will need to identify optimal talent solutions that maximise their companies’ agility and talent attraction capabilities to lead their companies to achieve their critical goals, while making sure that the gig economy works for all parties.

This article originally appeared in the March 2018 issue of Human Resources as: Agents of workforce change - the Gig Economy is here and growing. It is reproduced with permission from HKIHRM and Classified Post.



Alan Wong

Managing Director, Kelly Services Hong Kong

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