Your location no longer has to dictate your option
In much of the developed world, the gig economy has formed as part of the evolution of the job market -- a result of traditional industry and services-embracing technology. There are definite pros and cons, and in nations accustomed to defined salaries, holidays, and employee benefits, it has faced a lot of negativity as it has bedded in.
But bed in it has. As with everything derived from supply and demand, where there is a need for a service, there is opportunity.
The key with this evolution is to embrace it -- the concept of being stuck in a salary bracket doesn’t have to determine your future anymore. With the ability to earn via ad hoc work that suits you, everyone can in some way be the boss of their own lives.
Travelling several weeks out of the month while we develop our own business internationally, airport to hotel on repeat, can feel like you never get to really see a country. One thing we always get a feel for though is the work ethics of the place. I call it the Uber diaries -- consisting of the insightful conversations we have had with drivers from different countries.
I recall one driver in Seattle telling us the story of his journey to the States to study medicine and live the American dream. He had come from Somalia and spent most of his 20s studying and saving to get into a US university.
To afford the journey he had to take the cheapest crossings possible, which involved four days and seven changes, but he said it was worth every minute to get to where he was going. He graduated from medical school working several jobs to help fund it, and was at the time studying for a PhD and driving Uber in the evening to bring in extra money, as his wife was expecting a baby.
Some of the best stories we have heard are always in the US, a place not afraid to still embrace the concept of the American dream. You certainly feel a drive there that is different to the UK; they embrace success no matter where it has come from -- the idea of having one job is bizarre to anyone trying to make a success of themselves and they are definitely not afraid to talk about money.
Perhaps that is why Trump was surprisingly so popular in the end -- for all his flaws, he still represents the idea that if you work hard and are prepared to sacrifice short-term, anyone can make it.
So why are places like the UK so afraid to embrace the gig economy, and how can it benefit a developing nation?
The answer to one is the solution to the other
The UK’s reluctance to make the most of the gig economy and see it as a positive stems from an overly traditional ideal of what work is and an expectation of what work can bring you. It’s a country built by people for whom it was not unusual to work in the same job for their entire career. But times have changed and with artificial intelligence fast coming down the tracks, we can no longer see this as the norm.
For developing countries, perhaps they are in the best position to grow alongside the gig economy and what technology has to bring.
They can fast-track their mindset to embrace border-free commerce opportunities created by the net and join global platforms to market their skills. When you peel back the label, the concept behind the name “gig economy” is already commonplace in a lot of Asian countries. Bangladesh is a great example of this -- the drive and determination to succeed is ingrained into kids from a young age.
Having spent a great deal of time here over the past couple of years, it never ceases to amaze me how everyone seems to be an entrepreneur in their own right and at every level -- from the factory worker who has a food stall in the evenings to the executives who will own an Internet café.
It is this mindset that has the ability to enable a country like Bangladesh to embrace and utilize the gig economy more than a lot of Western countries like the UK. After all, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks!
In this case, Bangladesh is actually not dissimilar to the US -- an economy built up around the mentality of the “side hustle.” The key difference is the obvious access to opportunity, which is where the gig economy can play such a crucial part in the future.
So how can a labour force-heavy nation succeed in an AI future world?
The main focus should be investing in the youth and technology to develop a tech fluent generation who can utilize the borderless opportunities working remotely can bring. Growing up in a less developed country no longer has to defer your ability to succeed until you can afford to move to another place with greater opportunities.
With more people than ever working remotely from home or in shared workplaces, location no longer has to dictate your options. The UK Office of National Statistics (ONS) recently released data which show that half the UK workforces are expected to be working remotely by 2020.
If you are specialized in skills like coding, web development, and accountancy, any industry that can be exported via online platforms can enable you to competitively earn in a global market.
The key is to invest in people who can then invest in their country. The story of the Seattle Uber driver moving to the US to live the American Dream for himself is a great one, but it can now be embraced from wherever you are.
After all, what is the American dream but an ideology of opportunity being available to allow your highest aspirations and goals to be achieved?
Tim Connor and Francesca Armstrong are British entrepreneurs and investors. They own, run, and consult for international companies.