Opinion: Can Sierra Leone’s unemployed/underemployed youth population join the “Gig Economy”? Short answer: not right now.

If you have ever gotten transportation service from an uber driver or created a logo on fiverr, you have  participated in the “Gig Economy”. Gig, is a slang word for work that is usually only on a short term / project by project basis.

For example, depending on your skills you might get a “gig” performing a specific type of work for someone for a limited amount of time in addition to keeping your regular 9-5 work. You can use your skills to earn extra money. The Gig Economy is growing worldwide and while the number of individuals participating in this economy is difficult to quantify, this type of economy creates opportunities for the unemployed/underemployed to work and earn money. Flexibility, variety and working on something which you are passionate about are also other positives about participating in the Gig economy. Check out this article by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics which discuss the Gig Economy in depth

The Gig economy is occurring worldwide in a variety of ways and in this article we would like to explore whether Sierra Leone’s youth can stand to benefit by participating in this economy.

According to the UNDP, approximately 70% of Sierra Leone’s youth are underemployed or unemployed. Underemployed is when an individual is employed but performing work that does not fully utilize their skills/knowledge/education. Unemployment is defined as individuals whom are not working but actively looking for jobs. One wonders if this percentage would be even higher if you included those whom are unemployed but are not looking because they do not expect to find a job either due to their lack of skills, perception that the situation is hopeless, or other reasons. That aside, could the gig economy lower this percentage? Well first let us list a couple of gig jobs that could alleviate the situation in Sierra Leone. The below list excludes construction and extraction jobs which is in Sierra Leone.

  • Graphic Designers
  • Web developers
  • Software developers
  • Computer programmers
  • Technical writers
  • Delivery drivers

The above list is just a few jobs that a young Sierra Leonean with the means can use to make money and not just in Leones. On Fiverr for example, a young Sierra Leonean with the skills can put themselves in the position to earn atleast $5 for a gig creating a logo for someone in the U.S. for example. Similar exchanges occur all the time with workers in India for example. $5 here, $10 there, it adds up and can be a real source of income for a young Sierra Leonean. However, if you notice, all of the above potential gig jobs require some sort of investment. Either investment in gaining the right education, software, hardware, not to mention internet connectivity. That is where the potential for the unemployed and underemployed Salone youth to earn money in the Gig economy becomes something that would be nice but not likely anytime soon.

Unless relatives overseas/domestic that can afford to support these youths, new businesses or the government invest in creating the habitat where participating in the Gig economy becomes possible.

Unless relatives overseas/domestic that can afford to support these youths, new businesses or the government invest in creating the habitat where participating in the Gig economy becomes possible. Good access to training programs, computers, software, electricity, cars, these things would all need to be in place.

What do you think? Do you think the Gig Economy has the potential to benefit the Sierra Leone youth? Take our poll or comment below.

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