The Gig Economy: Job Opportunities for Expat Accompanying Partners


What is the Gig Economy?

“A way of working that is based on people having temporary jobs or doing separate pieces of work, each paid separately, rather than working for an employer”. 1

Who are the Gig workers?

“Gig workers are independent contractors, online platform workers, contract firm worker, on-call workers, and temporary workers”. 2

History of the Gig Economy and Trends in current and future “workforce”

The gig economy has been around for many years. The term “gig” was first coined back in the 20’s to refer to a musical performance.

The 2009 crisis, as well as developments in digital technologies accelerated and transformed the gig economy in diverse sectors and services. Among the main actors of the gig economy, we can find household names such as Uber and Airbnb.

For freelancers, there are platforms such as Upwork where companies and individuals connect for business: the freelancers showcase their skills and bid on projects and the companies pay on demand for a freelancer’s skills on a project.

Covid has also been a catalyst for the growth of this “temporary employment” workplace, not only for delivery services such as Uber, but also for online “freelancer” platforms.  Our traditional model of “full-time employees” is moving towards a model of “temporary employees”. The number of these temporary workers is growing worldwide. According to several data sources more than one third of American workers, work in the gig economy, nearly 16% of British workers work in the gig economy and 40% of companies across the world hire “gig workers”.

How is the Gig Economy an opportunity for Expat Accompanying Partners?

If we go back and look at extracts from the article:

90% of spouses/partners were working prior to accompanying the expatriate on the assignment whereas this fell to only 35% in the host location” and  

“a large percentage of “AP’s” have put their career on hold to support their partner, or for different reasons they cannot find employment/or work in the host country, numerous are those who ask the question concerning their future career path. This is an issue that can preoccupy their mind during the stay abroad”.

For Accompanying Partners who want to work on a flexible basis, to continue to work from home anywhere in the world while juggling their daily shifts as a mother, partner etcetera, registering on online platforms such as Upwork can be an alternative option to finding full time employment. These type of platforms offer the opportunity to continue to work remotely, to stay active, to manage the number of projects you wish to work on, while continuing to keep abreast of new technologies and to build your portfolio of clients and recommendations.  If you decide later to return to “traditional” employment with the benefits that go with this, your gig experience will help in your job search and keeping your confidence level aflow, as you never left “the workforce”. With gig economy experience, you continued to keep up to date or develop your skills, in particular in relation to online and new technologies.

Times have changed

At one time it was seen as “risky” and “badly portrayed” to be part of the gig economy, but times have changed.

There is a huge increase in the number of gig workers worldwide, in particular among Millennials and Baby Boomers.

It is still “risky”, in the sense that you do not have a secure work flow (you have to go after the work), your income is not predictable and you miss out on the benefits and advantages of "traditional workers”. 

The good news is that there are now new labor laws which are currently being negotiated or put in place in several countries, to protect gig workers.

Looking at Gig Economy opportunities for Expat Accompanying Partners

Each individual situation is different! 

If your situation as an Expat Accompanying Partner does not give you the possibility to be a “traditional worker”, then try adding up the pros and cons of being a gig worker to see if the pros outweigh the cons, or inversely.  

If the pros are mainly present, then there are lots of opportunities for different types of expertise on freelance platforms such as: teaching, coaching, freelance writer, content writing, translator, deep learning…

To get started: have a look at different freelancer profiles. If you feel that you are missing on certain skills, there are plenty of online courses to obtain skills development and qualifications, such as OpenClassrooms.

A lot of Universities are also moving from “traditional onsite course”s to full online.

Gig Economy, a great means of reinventing yourself

Some tips:

Prepare and train yourself on careers that will be there in the future. Several surveys have shown that workers in the gig economy train on new skills or update their skills more often than traditional workers.

Learn to work from anywhere. Be at ease with digital tools and applications.

Build your online portfolio. Start getting noticed.

And finally, if your time is restricted and you can choose, then carefully select the projects that really “mean something for you”.

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