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The Gig Economy Reaches Japan

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In the “gig economy,” workers accept temporary and one-off jobs on an ad-hoc basis via the Internet. This style of working is catching on in the West, and is slowly gaining traction in Japan.

A Global Phenomenon

The “gig economy” is a nebulous term that experts have adopted to describe an emerging worldwide trend in digitally-driven freelance work. In 2018, the human resource journal Staffing Industry Analysts estimated the size of the American gig economy, broadly defined as any type of work of a fixed duration by directly- or indirectly-hired temporary employees, at $1.3 trillion. Organizations like the Oxford Internet Institute and professional services giant Pricewaterhouse Coopers have also heralded the burgeoning presence of the gig economy, although the onset of the coronavirus pandemic has thrown previously released predictions of growth in the sector into doubt.

According to Staffing Industry Analysts, there were  53 million gig workers in the United States in 2018, making up 35% of the total workforce. This figure includes 7.9 million workers who find jobs through online labor markets—the so-called human cloud—1.3 million statement of work (SoW) consultants, and 27 million independent contractors.

An Important Human Resource

A prominent aspect of the gig economy is that advances in technology have made it borderless. While the United States accounts for 40% of staff sourcing that is part of the human cloud, some 70% of this work is performed in Asia. 

Many Western corporations manage their human resources according to the concept of “total talent management,” meaning that firms build customized talent portfolios consisting of an optimum complement of talent selected from all the available options on the labor market. Such portfolios include regular employees, external human resources (freelancers, gig workers, consultants, and those already employed by other companies), and non-personnel resources such as artificial intelligence. In other words, the HR market is becoming global in scope as employers transcend traditional corporate frameworks and source talent from labor markets around the world. In English-speaking countries in particular, employers are increasingly turning to developing countries and Eastern Europe nations for IT staff and hiring workers in different time zones. 

In the West, businesses of all sizes make active use of external specialists. Provided they have the required skills, gig workers are able to work flexibly and with a high degree of freedom, anytime, and anywhere. Demand is highest for sales, software, and creative specialists, and the spatial flexibility of gig workers makes them a valuable resource for addressing regional labor shortages.

The Crucial Role of Job Brokers

Many people associate the gig economy with drivers and delivery services such as Uber and Lyft, but it is actually more widely ranging, encompassing domestic services such as cooking and cleaning as well as highly skilled services like programming, app development, and website design.

The growth of the gig economy in the West is believed to be partly the result of the increase in the number of brokers that provide jobs via online platforms. To optimize supply, these brokers use high-tech tools and dedicated websites and apps to match gig workers to demand from corporations and individual consumers. All gig workers need to do is sign up with an online platform, provide information on what jobs they can do, and specify their availability. In addition to connecting clients with workers according to the service required, brokers support other steps in the processes, including performing background checks, providing information on past experience, facilitating communication, and offering payment options. Brokers provide gig workers with a better work environment by acting as guarantors, liaising with clients, invoicing, and collecting accounts receivable.

Trade with Individuals a Hurdle in Japan

In Japan, by contrast, business-to-business relationships are the norm. According to Keidanren (the Japan Business Federation), most corporations trade chiefly with other companies and tend to limit dealings with individuals to a few specialized tasks, such as graphic design and software development. While some corporations might want to commission more work to specialized staff, they lack the expertise in personnel development required to find the right people.

The need to properly match workers to tasks presents an enormous obstacle to companies tapping into the gig market in Japan. However, there are other reasons that corporations are hesitant to work with individuals, including the difficulty in assessing work quality and problems in placing high-value orders with individuals due to challenges in handling breaches of contract and claiming compensation for damages.

From the worker’s perspective, job offers typically come from former employers or former training institutions. While still responsible for a small share of the overall gig economy, brokers, sharing economy services, and talent agencies make up an increasing share of new business.

Bans on Moonlighting Relaxed

While ride-sharing services make up a large chunk of the gig economy in the West, Japan’s Road Transportation Act has hampered companies like Uber and Lyft by requiring that drivers get their taxi license before they can carry passengers. These restrictions on a potentially lucrative sector has slowed the overall growth of the Japan’s gig economy and meant that the traditional work habits of freelancers have not changed significantly. However, there are two areas in which the gig economy may grow.

The first involves the lifting of the prohibition on working multiple jobs. Now that the Japanese government has begun encouraging employees to take second jobs, an increasing number of businesses are removing moonlighting prohibitions from their work rules. Some corporations are allowing employees to work a second job if certain conditions are met, such as the job is undertaken for training purposes, is in a different industry, and does not affect the employee’s duties at their main job. Some companies also stipulate that the employee must be in his or her main job for a specified minimum time. A glance at corporations that removed prohibitions on working multiple jobs since 2016 reveals a range of leading companies, including Asahi Breweries, Kagome, Konica, SoftBank, Yahoo, and Rohto Pharmaceutical.

The second area is gigs performed by senior citizens. On February 4, the cabinet of Prime Minister Abe Shinzō approved an amendment of the Act on Stabilization of Employment of Elderly Persons that opened the way for workers to remain on the job until the age of 70. In addition to lifting the retirement age and encouraging the practice of reemploying older workers on a casual basis, the amendment also allows freelancers and entrepreneurs to be compensated as contractors. Once passed into law, the amendment will come into force in April 2021.

In an age when people can expect to live until 100, there is surely more that can be done to utilize freelancers and gig workers of all ages who can choose when and where they want to work as their health allows, rather than being bound by inflexible work regimens that are regulated by work rules.

It is now possible that Japan will see an increase in part-time gig workers, be they working second jobs or on contract. It remains to be seen how these two emerging labor markets will evolve, but good personnel matching, development of roles, and a high level of support will certainly play a key role.

(Originally published in Japanese. Banner photo: A taxi in Nagoya offered by ride-hailing service Uber Technologies. © Jiji.)

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Here’s how you can turn your volunteering gig into paid work

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We talk to Volunteering Australia for some tips 

It’s no secret that volunteering can be a great way to give back to your community and a cause you’re passionate about, make friends, and broaden your networks and skillbase.

There’s also a chance that with a bit (or a lot) of hard work, time, and passion, your volunteering job can turn into paid work. 

But is there a right and a wrong way to go about doing this? We asked the CEO of Volunteering Australia, Mark Pearce, for some advice. 

Volunteer more than once 

It’s important to keep in mind that giving one random day of your time to a charity probably won’t land you an instant job. These things take a level of personal investment, so find a volunteering opportunity you enjoy, and stick to it.  

“Potential employers will view an ongoing volunteering role as having more likely impacted on skills development and work experience,” Pearce says. 

Be on the lookout for opportunity

Staying open minded about your experience as a volunteer is critical. If you go in expecting to get paid at the end of it, you’ll probably be disappointed. Instead, Pearce says you should keep your eyes and ears open for new contacts or opportunities that will help you find an entry point into the organisation. 

“Job seekers need to be mindful of the potential opportunities to gain work experience or to develop skills as part of the volunteering experience,” he explains.  

View it as a chance for self development 

The job market is particularly competitive at the moment and it’s easy to feel defeated when you’ve been knocked back from all the jobs you’re applying for. 

But volunteering comes with a whole range of benefits and can help you feel more motivated, confident and industrious when looking for work.

“Volunteering may assist in ‘levelling the playing field’ for individuals who typically have a more difficult time finding employment, especially during a recession or if lacking experience in a particular industry or role,” Pearce says. 



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Finding health insurance a headache for gig workers | Mid-Missouri News

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COLUMBIA – When Amy Crousore decided to become a full-time musician 3 years ago, she never imagined a pandemic would dry up her business.

Now, 8 months into the global health crisis, Crousore is reflecting on the struggles of the gig industry.

“Everything shut down and there was just no back up for us,” she said.

She said many of her colleagues were already taking day jobs before the pandemic just so they could receive health insurance.

Crousore has also taken up a job as a caretaker to make ends meet until venues reopen.

“We compared about 12 different healthcare plans,” she said. “I considered whether I would have to take a loan to pay for a more expensive plan.”

Health insurance is a headache Jason Gruender and Jen Wheeler know well.

Gruender manages Liberty Family Medicine with his wife, a doctor.

Wheeler manages Big Tree Medical Home with her husband, also a doctor.

Both clinics operate through unconventional business models that are less reliant on traditional insurance plans. Instead, you pay for a membership or one-time fees.

“We believe in our model, and it’s working well across the nation, and it’s working well here in Columbia,” Wheeler said.

Gruender is also confident in his clinic.

“I think we have a broken health care system,” he said. “The clinic is not a complete solution to that problem, but it’s a step in the right direction.”

As the world navigates a pandemic, the path to affordable health care has been riddled with troubles.

Crousore worries necessities like health care will alter the landscape of the music industry.

“Do you want there to be nobody you can call to play for your wedding because everybody is working 40 hours a week to get insurance,” Crousore asked. “What kind of world do you want?”

Gruender and Wheeler also said choosing a health insurance plan is an important decision that should be given lots of thought.

Enrollment through the Affordable Care Act is open right now and closes Dec. 15. There are other enrollment periods for special life events, such as getting married.

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Pendulum swings back to break lockdown lull with hometown New Year’s gig

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“During the whole lockdown thing it’s been kind of hard to put an original stamp on a set or a piece of live music; everyone’s been playing from their living rooms, everyone’s playing next to the f—ing fridge, so we had to come up with something new.”

The end result, an hour-long live-streamed performance at Spitbank Fort, was broadcast in October and also heralded the drum ‘n’ bass outfit’s first new material in a decade; the double-A side Driver/Nothing For Free.

Not being able to perform live has other pitfalls; even with their show at Spitbank Fort and a well-received global release, the group’s new material still hasn’t been tested in front of crowds.

“When we’re getting ready to release something always a huge component of it is playing it to small audiences, or sometimes even big audiences, and getting a lot of feedback from that, especially when it comes to Rob doing final mixdowns and stuff,” McGrillen said.

“That’s one thing we’ve definitely missed.”

Pendulum will be able to break free from the bonds of live-streaming soon and give crowds a full dose of new music with a homecoming headline slot at Perth’s Origin Fields New Year festival.

Billed as ‘Pendulum Trinity’ the group’s founding members – Swire, Gareth McGrillen and Paul ‘El Hornet’ Harding – are the first headliners announced alongside Australian house heavyweight Dom Dolla.

Based in the UK, McGrillen and Swire are very much ready to “do the whole quarantine thing” and fly to Perth to join Harding, who lives in the group’s hometown. With coronavirus cases soaring around the world, it seems there’s nowhere else they’d rather be.

“Perth’s the safest place in the world right now,” McGrillen said.

It’s been a long time between drinks on the new music front, with Swire and McGrillen splitting off to form the electro/bass-driven Knife Party after Pendulum’s last album, Immersion, was released in 2010.

Pendulum shows continued, primarily driven by Harding, and when live shows returned in 2016, so did the ideas for new music under the Pendulum banner.

As with anything released in 2020, it’s tempting to read into the new tunes as inspired by the trash-fire year that was, but Swire said the roots of Driver/Nothing For Free came as early as 2016.

“I think current events might have added 20 per cent angst to the sound,” he said.

“Ten years is a nice round number and I sort of feel if you get away longer than that, you may as well not bother … we’d been doing the Knife Party thing for about 10 years, we always feel like switching it up.”

And while 2020 marks the first new Pendulum music in a decade, it is also another milestone; 15 years since the group’s explosive debut album, Hold Your Colour.

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The release still holds a special place for fans and the group alike – “the tracks on it still feel kind of magic,” Swire said – but at the time the trio didn’t know whether they had a hit or a flop on their hands.

“It was a weird time for us, we’d only been in England for about two years when we wrote it. In retrospect, it’s kind of the sound of culture shock and sleep deprivation,” Swire said.

“I think the first time we knew this whole thing had some longevity to it was when we made the next album (2008’s In Silico).

“We sort of switched the style and it still works and we thought, ‘Well, we’re onto something’, because we’ve brought all these new fans in who don’t even like drum ‘n’ bass.”

There’s a temptation, listening to Driver/Nothing For Free, to draw parallels between the tracks and the distinct styles between Pendulum’s earlier releases.

Driver, as the name suggests, is a fast-paced drum ‘n’ bass anthem; a heavy, rolling beat setting the pace for buzzsaw basslines interspersed with breakbeat clatters. Nothing For Free, on the other hand, features sing-along hooks rising to a rocking, headbanging crescendo, reminiscent of the outfit’s later albums.

So, is this a conscious effort? Or a by-product of almost two decades producing forward-thinking, genre-blending electronic hits?

The latter, largely.

Swire and McGrillen agreed they never intended to follow their earlier work too closely, but when inspiration strikes, well, sometimes it just pans out that way.

“It somehow just organically falls into either [style]; you get a sense halfway through, you get a sense like, ‘This sounds like kind of a Hold Your Colour tip’, or you can tell it’s a new style,” Swire said.

Pendulum will perform at Langley Park on Perth’s foreshore on New Year’s Eve. Tickets and information at originfields.com.au.

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