Skills revolution is on the rise: How can we promote resilience in the gig economy?

Last month, the UNIDO Learning and Knowledge Development Facility Forum explored the role of resilience and skills, highlighting the need for workers, platforms and policy makers to prepare for a skills revolution. The Gig Economy Initiative which GIZ implements on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) presented how it aims to grow workers’ abilities to “bounce forward” in a modern labour market that poses many novel challenges.

What do we mean by resilience, especially for skills?
On digital labour platforms we can see the future of work under a magnifying glass. The gig economy is a microcosm of trends which will mark the modern labour market in years to come. Online freelancer platforms often search for practical skills such as Python or R as opposed to traditional occupations or degrees. Flexibility is key, both from the supply and demand end. Customers located around the world want service anytime, anywhere and the global reach of the internet is able to provide that. This presents high potential for those that previously could not participate in the labour market due to scheduling restrictions e.g., mothers. As the entry barriers are low in terms of formal requirements, it also facilitates access to the labour market for those who previously struggled to enter. However, this advantage also introduces new pressures such as instability and precarious working conditions. These changing labour market dynamics and structural conditions are part of the so-called skills revolution.

What can we expect from the Skills Revolution? And how can we better prepare for this revolution and become more resilient?
The Gig Economy Initiative recognises that those working on digital labour platforms are at the forefront of the skills revolution and need to constantly adapt their skills in order to build resilience for the future of work.

Skills anticipation and data-driven decision making will better prepare workers, platforms, and policy makers for the revolution. The Skills Compass will be a web-based tool to make recommendations for platform workers on how to further develop their skills for the current market needs, based on the skills they already have. It will also allow to provide evidence-based policy recommendations on which trainings and support (future) workers need.

Micro-credentials may offer an alternate pathway for gig workers to acquire new or recognise existing competencies quickly. The dynamic nature of the future of work requires an equally as dynamic approach to upskilling and reskilling. In collaboration with the TVET sector project, the Gig Economy Initiative is commissioning a study to investigate the potential micro-credential and badging platforms hold for gig workers looking to move horizontally and vertically within the modern labour market.

Whilst the gig economy creates new opportunities to enter the labour market, traditional societal and cultural structures remain as barriers toward higher female participation in the workforce (Nasubo, 2021). Women and refugees face compounded challenges which can be overcome through the benefit of shared experiences. As gig workers often have few opportunities to interact with others, we will pilot networking opportunities and mentorship programs for gig workers to strengthen resilience and overcome common challenges.

Trainings on complementary and transferable skills belong to our core workers modules to be distributed globally via atingi for gig workers. Soft skills such as finance, negotiation, customer service and management will be the currency of the future as workers seek to move quickly in and out of new job roles. Our focus is on value-adding skills to train resilience for the skills revolution.

An effective policy solution targets the entire ecosystem. Therefore, our engagement with platforms and regulators towards sustainable regulation and collaborative partnerships further contributes to helping workers become more resilient.