These skills are essential for a tech-based gig economy

Following the release of the latest UK-South Africa Launch League Tech Hub report, experts warn of the “double disruption” of the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and the increasing automation of jobs.

According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), technological disruption could result in 85 million jobs being lost worldwide by 2025. However, 97 million additional jobs could be created.

This is important as South Africa still faces massive youth unemployment, with many young people unable to fully participate in the New Economy. The technological disruption presents an opportunity for young people to be reskilled and upskilled to help them find new ways to make an income.

Statistics South Africa revealed that 45% were under 34 and not working, studying or training. This means that over four out of ten South Africans are unemployed and do not receive skills training. The South African youth unemployment rate is expected to reach 64% by 2022 according to projections.

South Africa’s youth unemployment is a major problem. Many young people are unable to take part in the economy. The technological revolution offers a chance to reskill, upskill and orient young people towards new opportunities to make an income.

After the rise in unemployment among young South Africans the UK-South Africa Tech Hub Launch League initiative began a research project to survey 40 South African hubs and skills training organizations. This was to learn how they help young South Africans be economically active.

Exploring the gig economy

The report is entitled “Skills and training offered by South Africa’s Hub Network: How can South African hubs train and support young South Africans to earn an income in the New Economy?”

It discovered that digital skills trainers, hubs, incubators and entrepreneurs support organizations (ESOs) are crucial in preparing people to enter the New Economy.

The New Economy is described as an economy that is producing or intensely using innovative or new technologies – and is largely service orientated – with an increase in entrepreneurship and gig-based employment. Organisations can offer youth a bridge by helping them to transition to this income stream by developing skills in digital technologies, entrepreneurship and gig work.

Individuals need to be able to adapt to digital technology’s changing requirements. For the jobs of tomorrow and new income opportunities, both specialized and cross-cutting skills will be required.

The WEF’s Future of Work report defines these skills in four broad categories: problem-solving, self-management, working with people, and technology use and development.

According to the Launch League report, entrepreneurship, and gig work (i.e., the gig economy) have both been trumpeted as South Africa’s solution to alleviating extreme levels of unemployment. Although entrepreneurship interventions are a priority in South Africa, gig work readiness has been recognized as an important area for skill development.

Gig work – comprising flexible, short-term, freelance work that often involves connecting individuals to clients or customers via apps and websites – is changing the course of peoples’ careers as they are pushed to build professional profiles outside of traditional structures.

While it isn’t a new phenomenon, technological advances are making gig work accessible to larger numbers of people. More people are selling their labour as “gigs” and companies seek out contract workers not only to save costs, but to create a flexible workforce that includes outsourced talent from across the world.

In South Africa, gigwork is a way for people to earn income and take on temporary work while they wait for permanent work.

It is a promising way to make an income but gig work can have some downsides. These include overworking, social isolation and insecurity at work.

It takes a special set of skills to manage and prepare for gigs.

According to the UK-South Africa Tech Hub Launch League’s report, for gig work to provide a sustainable pathway to income, ‘gig work readiness’ will become essential.

The following principles are essential for tech-based gig job readiness:

  • Continuously learn new skills, as outdated skills and technologies are no longer relevant.
  • Gaining experience and skills in a variety of applications.
  • Ability to work alone or in a virtual team.
  • Use self-direction to assert yourself.
  • Acquiring branding and self-promotion skills.
  • Financial capability to manage gigs-to-gig life.
  • entrepreneurial thinking – seeing yourself as a business offering a range of capabilities.
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