By Richard Dunn, CEO of M4JAM
Thousands of young graduates can’t find jobs in South Africa. Unemployment in the country in general is a significant problem, with the current rate at 26.7%. In fact, analysts warn that the unemployment crisis is one of the government’s most pressing challenges following the municipal elections earlier this month.
At the same time, South Africa is not equipped to enable a graduate to become economically active. Often the skills learned at educational institutions are based on theory, and employers seek practical work based experience that graduates just don’t have. There is also a lack of artisanal training for those who don’t attend tertiary institutions to be able to upskill in order to find sustainable employment.
The gig economy and new economic activity
The gig economy – a working model that involves taking on lots of different jobs for shorter periods of time – could offer a solution to the problem of unemployment. It’s doing more than simply creating a new digital channel for freelance work; it’s giving rise to a host of new economic activity based on the idea of on-demand services. For example, online marketplace, Etsy plays host to more than a million crafters selling their wares, while Airbnb and its competitors have almost a million hosts of their own.
Micro-jobbing and the gig economy
Micro-jobbing taps into the idea of the gig economy – providing a platform for businesses and brands to breakdown large projects into small tasks or “jobs” that anyone can complete and be reimbursed for. It’s a great way for those who are battling to find employment, or anyone battling in tough financial times, to make ends meet. It marries the idea of on-demand services that businesses need, with the concept of “jobs on demand” for those who need them most.
Micro-jobbing meets micro-learning
However, beyond providing a short-term financial solution, micro-jobbing can go a step further to address the dire need for skills development.
Micro-learning is being touted as the hot new e-learning trend, and one that fits in well with the micro-jobbing model. It’s a modular delivery approach to e-learning where content is structured into a series of short, concise and dynamic lessons often in the form of a video, infographic or other rich media delivered via mobile device. Each is a complete learning experience while also supporting a greater learning sequence.
Importantly, just as micro-jobbing taps into the mobile technology boom, providing work that can be done whenever and wherever, micro-learning embraces the trend for people to access digital, educational content via their mobile devices.
This makes it particularly effective for engaging with millennials who are already accustomed to interacting with mobile devices – not to mention the fact that mobile penetration across Africa continues to increase exponentially. It also reduces the time and resources needed for training a much larger group of individuals, while offering learners convenience and flexibility to fit in their training whenever and wherever they can – depending on what they need and when they have time.
Providing a source of income and bridging the skills gap
So micro-jobbing has the dual role of providing a source of income to those who are unemployed or underemployed, as well as acting as a platform for micro-learning to potentially uplift these individuals to find employment or even try their hands at entrepreneurship.
According to economist, Thomas Piketty, the main driver of sustained economic inequality in the past has been the concentration of wealth-producing capital in the hands of a few. However, if the economy is powered by micro-entrepreneurs, this is less likely.
In addition, the National Development Plan Vision 2030 document highlights that the key to sustainable employment and economic growth in South Africa is through education and skills development. Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa echoed this sentiment earlier this year when he said, “We need a skills revolution in our country that will fundamentally change our society in many ways… No country can achieve economic growth without paying attention to the skills development of its people.”
Matching skills development with economic opportunity is crucial as one can’t exist without the other. Finding new and sustainable ways to increase the pool of skilled workers by reaching them through a medium they understand, is an essential part of ensuring we grow as a country. In that light, micro-jobbing, and by extension its potential to help make ends meet as well as drive skills development, stands to have a significant impact on the economy.