Is Gig Economy slowly breaking a social norm?


While an international student in Glasgow back in 2021, I observed how normal it is for all the international students to work for different restaurants, shops on a part-time basis. Every nationality works there with a fair pay scale and supports themselves. They pay their accommodation costs, tuition fees, etc. with these earnings. This is something which is relatively absent in Bangladesh. The social norm of not formalising and respecting part time jobs and considering these jobs of lower income brackets has always been evident in Bangladesh. It is considered as an indicator of "lower-class" by society, which prevents people to work or work with a very minimum pay. So, if a student from Bangladesh can work there, why can not he work here during his studies? Is it because of earning in dollars and pounds is prestigious or is it the social barrier?  

One of the most inquisitive questions I have heard while my job tenure in Foodpanda Bangladesh in 2020 was whether I was working as a rider there. Obviously, the tone was mostly with a sense of condescension. Although I worked there as an executive, the majority of our recruited employers were riders who at least at once encountered such behavior from the society. But slowly people from diversified backgrounds are joining the crowd of gig economy. People are getting familiar with the idea of “Gig” where one works based on one’s availability and flexibility.

A large portion of riders from companies like Uber, Pathao is from the student cohort of different universities. Bike owning students are earning while going to university and returning home by providing the ride sharing facility. It not only helps them to regain the fuel cost of the bike but also turns out to be an important source of daily pocket money. Based on need, they can make more trips which can be a significant alternative to pay tuition fees or contribute to the family. Riders enjoy riding their bikes and now with the blessing of gig economy, enjoyment is served with good money. Society is also mobilising this by understanding the need of such facilities for commuting which is eventually turning a part time job a formal and well recognised earning source in a gradual process.

It is not necessary for a student to own a bike or car to earn. Regular bicycle riders have the opportunity to work with different food delivery companies in the market. Each company provides shift-based opportunities, which is very accommodating for students. Thus, students from all income backgrounds are slowly joining the horde.

Part time jobs are never humiliating. This message needs to be preached strongly in the society

With the emergence of different app-based companies, part time jobs while studying is slowly replacing the analogue informal jobs like tuition and note writing for students. Moreover, a blend of digital economy and gig economy is opening opportunities in the freelancing world where there are plenty of contract-based job options such as graphic designing, video editing, social media content creation, copywriting etc. This helps students to hone their skills and prepare them with additional qualifications apart from academic knowledge to enter the job market. Also, working with multinational companies like Foodpanda, Uber give them a fresh and strategic idea about the corporate culture and functionalities. The ever-growing popularity of such platforms with a reputed brand value is creating a positive picture in the society. Thus, parents are also getting encouraged to let the youth work for such companies as part timers.

Part time jobs are never humiliating. This message needs to be preached strongly in the society. And the flexibility of gig economy introduced this in a wholesome way during the Covid 19 pandemic. As a result, an organic transformation has been observed now. It is necessary to capitalise the concept and promote it from a micro level. The gradual breaking of this norm needs to be further endorsed by a joint initiative of policymakers, the government and the non-state actors.

* Md. Shiyan Sadik is currently working as a Research Associate at the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD)