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Rapid increase in 'gig' working

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There has been a rapid increase in gig working, according to research by the University of Oxford

‘Gig’ working is where employers use online labour platforms to engage workers for piecemeal, short-term or project-based work delivered over the internet.

Researchers at the University of Oxford have launched the Online Labour Index, which gathered data on the online gig economy from sites and apps across the world between May and September 2016.

The Index shows that during this period the number of vacancies grew by 9%, representing an annual growth rate of 25%. The growth was fastest among UK employers, who increased the amount of labour bought online over the period by nearly 14%, with a 7.5% rise elsewhere in Europe and 6% in the US.

The Index found that employers in the US are the biggest users of online platforms for recruiting freelance workers, representing 52% of all the vacancies posted. This was followed by the UK at 6.3%, India at 5.9%, and Australia at 5.7%.

The data also showed that software development and technology are currently the most sought-after skills in the online labour market. Creative and multimedia work is the second largest category, followed by clerical and data entry work. Other in-demand skills included writing and translation services, professional services, and sales and marketing support.

Vili Lehdonvirta, a researcher at Oxford University, explained why the results were consistent between different countries when it came to specific skillsets.

“This similarity between countries is surprising given that substantial differences are recorded in conventional labour market statistics,” he said. “However, this could be because software development and technology companies are among the first to use online platforms for engaging workers – as you might expect."

He added: "This practice may soon replace job agencies or traditional ad placements and become more commonplace for sectors across the board. Once this happens we expect the Online Labour Index to reflect countries’ economic structures more closely.”