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Gig Economy: The New Disruptor of Education, Jobs & Social Security


A new philosophy of labour economics is flourishing because of gig recruiters who only target their requirements irrespective of whether the doers have any formal educational certificates or not and the worthiness of gig workers decides their hiring. The sole reliance on the expertise of individuals to perform the respective jobs is likely to delink the educational attainments with the jobs which in turn will also decouple the educational attainments from the pay levels. It is imperative for the education system to engrain the students with comprehensive abilities to adapt, and learn-unlearn-learn in the self-initiated mode for remaining relevant and fetch higher incomes for themselves in the changed economic spectrum. The ensuing independence of educational attainments from jobs and income may push children out of the formal education system for immediate jobs and higher incomes, which may have its implications on the overall capacity building of human resources for sustainability.

The general perception of the role of education in fetching jobs appears to get challenged by the paradigm shift in the engagement of gig workers without major consideration of educational certificates. There are ample shreds of evidence of temporary hiring of freelancing workers for jobs mediated by online platforms who are delivering desired outcomes even without having formal qualifications. The sole reliance on the expertise of individuals to perform the respective jobs is likely to delink the educational attainments with the jobs which in turn will also decouple the educational attainments from the pay levels. This phenomenon has surfaced predominantly after COVID that has accelerated online practices, howbeit these got nucleated around 2008. And such transactions are percolating in different spheres due to certain benefits like, temporary requirements, no physical dislocation, enhanced productive hours in a day, lesser overhead expenditure and infrastructural support requirements, reduced human resource requirements, and the possibility of sharing of competencies.

Ostensibly, the gig economy driven by gig workers who do not need any degree/diploma certificates to carry out online jobs may transform the empirical relationship between education and job/income. A new philosophy of labour economics is flourishing because of gig recruiters who only target their requirements irrespective of whether the doers have any formal educational certificates or not and the worthiness of gig workers decides their hiring. The capabilities acquired through self-learning by reading and doing hands-on with success and failures are substituting the necessity of gaining these through formal education process in the case of gig workers. Wages for gig workers are seen to be linked to their work experience and suitability for the job profile.

Sole reliance on the expertise of individuals to perform the respective jobs is likely to delink the educational attainments with the jobs.

Also Read: Education Pollution: Substandard Schools, Decaying Higher Education, Mushrooming Coachings

Enfeebling interdependence of education and job/income may be due to the preeminence of the service sector in the economy over others. Statistics indicate that the service sector holds a share of 53.89% of India’s total Gross Value Addition while the share of the industry sector is 25.92%, and that of the agriculture and allied sector is 20.19% in 2020-21. A closer look at the service sector comprising majorly of trade, hotels and restaurants; transport, storage, and communication; financing, insurance, real estate and business services; and community, social, and personal services shows that it involves a lot of human resource for its functionality at the top, middle, and lower levels with varying competency requirements. It is noteworthy that the life cycle of organizations in the service sector is not too long except for those backed by Government in some form. Therefore, the organizations are quite hesitant in creating long-term liabilities and solely focused on the realization of their objectives and maximizing profits. The small turnovers of organizations, lessening concern for the welfare of employees, meagre interest to invest in the training of employees, and lesser interest to develop loyalty of employees towards organizations are also conspicuous in this regard. Also, the upsurge of small business activities, focusing on entrepreneurship and startups is leading to forgathered jobs with different skill sets needed for carrying out them.

In the present digital age, massive job opportunities have sprung up for individuals with abilities like knowledge of computer handling, networking, use of various software, software development proficiency, programming skills, communication skills, mobility etc. One can acquire capabilities for meeting these requirements through formal/informal training and self initiatives without entering into the rigour of getting certain formal educational attainments. Nevertheless, the longevity of such engagements may be limited to the period of requirements of respective enterprises and the incumbent is prompted to continue hunting for alternate jobs for their survival. Continuous learning by frequent change of jobs and uncertainty associated with it keeps one on their toes to remain updated about the advances in their expertise area and entitles them for seeking high wages in the gig economy. The shifting of the sizeable number of jobs in the unorganized sector is debilitating the education-to-job/wage connection. There are ample instances of persons with certain self-attained competencies demanding very high compensations for their services and the organizations have to essentially go for them to keep thriving.

Organizations are quite hesitant in creating long-term liabilities and solely focused on the realization of their objectives and maximizing profits.

Also Read: Heading Towards Extinction of Formal Education?

An inherent desire to remain free from the bindings of employers and exploit the best available opportunities for maximizing earnings are aptly addressed in the online gig economy model.

Undoubtedly, formal education culminates in degrees/diplomas that are gate passes to the job market, but the strength of these educational attainments decreases with time. The skills present in individuals must be contemporary to the happenings around them and futuristic. The motivation and commitment to remain updated and relevant to the industry dictate whether educational attainment is in direct correlation with the negotiability of income to the individual.

In the general, income is dependent primarily on certain independent variables namely level of education, work experience and accomplishments, gender, special abilities and competence. But the online gig economy is getting centred around gig workers with special abilities and competencies necessary for their respective job irrespective of formal education qualification. Income levels are also becoming a function of certain specific capabilities suiting for respective jobs, while degrees/diplomas/certificates take a back seat.

It is imperative for the education system to engrain the students with comprehensive abilities to adapt, and learn-unlearn-learn in the self-initiated mode for remaining relevant and fetch higher incomes for themselves in the changed economic spectrum.

Also Read: An Era of Dynamism in Higher Education

The growing redundancy of structured education framework in certain sectors of the economy may be flabbergasting for the education system and calls for various interventions for its strengthening simultaneously. It is becoming imperative for the education system to engrain the students with comprehensive abilities to adapt, and learn-unlearn-learn in the self-initiated mode for remaining relevant and fetch higher incomes for themselves in the changed economic spectrum. The important responsibility of the formal education system in knowledge creation should not get pushed back due to the aggressive attempts to link it with certain skill sets leading to the immediate employability of students. The survivability of students rolled out from educational institutions should also be considered while setting up education reforms in the context of the online gig economy. The incentivization of micro, small, and medium-scale enterprises (MSMEs) for multiplying employment opportunities is offering a congenial environment to short-term high-income jobs with or without formal education. Hence, the enforcement of welfare measures for labour and ensuring future security with respect to the gig economy warrants certain amendments in the policy framework. The socio-economic conditions of India essentially demand social security in the dynamic state of the economy. The ensuing independence of educational attainments from jobs and income may push children out of the formal education system for immediate jobs and higher incomes, which may have its implications on the overall capacity building of human resources for sustainability.

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About the author

Prof. Onkar Singh is the Vice Chancellor of Veer Madho Singh Bhandari Uttarakhand Technical University, Dehradun, He has been the Founder Vice-Chancellor of the Madan Mohan Malaviya University of Technology, Gorakhpur (U.P.). He is a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Harcourt Butler Technical University, Kanpur (U.P.).


Onkar Singh

Prof. Onkar Singh is the Vice Chancellor of Veer Madho Singh Bhandari Uttarakhand Technical University, Dehradun, He has been the Founder Vice-Chancellor of the Madan Mohan Malaviya University of Technology, Gorakhpur (U.P.). He is a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Harcourt Butler Technical University, Kanpur (U.P.).

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