Beyond 9 to 5: How online gig work can create more jobs for women

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Online gig work is transforming the way women work and earn money. Copyright: Shutterstock

When Anum graduated as a software engineer in Pakistan, she struggled to find a job in her field. Not willing to give up, she decided to embark on an alternative career path: online gig work. Anum joined Fiverr, the most popular online gig work platform in Pakistan. After some initial challenges, Anum now runs her own freelance business specializing in graphic design and web development, and she helps other women succeed in the world of online freelancing.

Many women around the world like Anum are discovering online gig work as a new career path, according to a new note on online gig work and female labor force participation

Here are four reasons why online gig work can increase women's access to jobs:

1)  Online gig work is rapidly expanding, accounting for up to 12 percent of all workers. In several countries, women engage in online gig work at higher rates than their overall labor force participation. Women also tend to be more represented in online gig work compared to similar sectors and occupations such as the service and informal sectors. However, gender disparities persist in overall earnings and higher paying tasks.

Figure on Female worker share in online gig work
Source: S4YE (2023). Short Note Series #2: Is Online Gig Work an Opportunity to Increase Female Labor Force Participation?

2) This type of work provides flexibility in where and when you earn an income. Online gig work can be a lifeline for women who face mobility constraints and need to balance work with household and care responsibilities.

3) Online gig work can be an empowering solution for women to circumvent societal norms that prevent them from accessing traditional jobs. A higher proportion of women engage in online gig work in countries with restrictive societal norms around women’s work outside the home, suggesting that online gig work provides women with new opportunities to work and earn an income.

4) Online gig work is an important source of income for many women. Women in average tend to be part-time gig workers, but nearly 50% of them earn most of their income this way compared to only 37 percent of male online gig workers. Moreover, most women in online gig work want to continue to grow as online gig workers, and some are even considering setting up their freelancing agencies.

But what do women need to thrive in online gig work?

Women online gig workers want greater access to training and credit. Targeted training programs need to combine sought-after technical skills with social-emotional skills that are essential for online freelancers such as time and client management and communication skills.

According to CGAP, financial inclusion is a crucial challenge for women gig workers. Access to credit for purchasing equipment is also necessary to overcome entry barriers, especially for disadvantaged workers. They also lack financial services and products that meet their needs, leaving them unable to leverage their work for more financial security or growth. Fifty-two percent of women do not have enough financial support for investments that could help them grow their income on platforms.

Targeted financial products could cover both women and their dependents against risks. For instance, medical insurance that covers children can allow women to continue to work even if they face family health issues. While women and online gig workers in general need more financial services and products, an Indian gig work platform called Urban Company is an example of how partnerships between platforms, fintechs, and insurtechs can be leveraged for tailored financial solutions. Workers using Urban Company can access a set of financial products including loans for worker starter kits, health insurance, as well as personal loans during the pandemic.

Online gig work is transforming the way women work and earn money, but they need innovative financial instruments and targeted support to fully realize the benefits of participating in this new form of work.  And it will be critical to observe whether these economic opportunities shift norms and meaningfully empower women within their households and communities over time. Solution-oriented partnerships between online platforms, private financial providers, and policy makers can support the design of innovative products that cater to specific needs of women online gig workers. 


This blog is based on findings from the World Bank report, “Working Without Borders: The Promise and Peril of Online Gig Work.”

 

Related blogs and resources
The Promise and Peril of Online Gig Work in Developing Countries

On Gig Platforms, Women Workers Face Triple Barriers to Inclusion

Interview with Merry Akpabio, an online platform worker in Nigeria

Connecting Women Gig Workers to Financial Services

 

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Authors

Namita Datta

Program Manager, Solutions for Youth Employment (S4YE)

Gayatri Murthy

Senior Financial Sector Specialist, CGAP

Nadina Iacob

Digital Economy Consultant, World Bank

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