Dog walker? Babysitter? Dietician? There’s an app for that.
A 47-year-old housewife surnamed Kim recently got an unusual new job. Kim visits a home in Dongdaemun District, eastern Seoul, twice a week to walk Lulu, a Maltese dog. The hourly wage she gets as a dog walker on Woofu, an app that provides pet care services, is 25,300 won ($20.88). After the app takes away a commission and tax, Kim takes home 18,400 won an hour.
But Lulu isn’t the only dog she’s working with, so Kim is actually able to take home much more.
Hwang Su-mi let go of her job at beauty and cosmetics conglomerate Amorepacific when she gave birth to her first child in 2015. Struggling with postnatal depression, 29-year-old Hwang was desperate to start working again. That’s when she discovered Mydano, a diet app exclusively for women. As a certified fitness instructor, Hwang was able to get a job through the app.
“I can work wherever and whenever I want, and it only needs to be for four hours a day. It is not demanding to be a parent at the same time,” explained Hwang.
As platform businesses based on smart phone apps are spreading, the number of gig workers is increasing. According to a report from Global Entrepreneurship Monitor in January, 21.5 percent of adults in Korea participate in the sharing and gig economies, the largest share of the adult population of 54 surveyed countries.
“For employers, they can hire people who work in the short-term in line with the [fluctuating] labor demand, while for laborers, they can work whenever they want and as much as they want,” explained Koo Tae-eon, an attorney at Lin Law Firm.
“With the development of information technology, traditional jobs are disappearing, and instead, gig workers are growing. For those who have a hard time finding a permanent position such as women whose careers have been interrupted or housewives, a new opportunity is opening up.”
As the demand for pet sitters or babysitters rises, companies are growing as well. Currently, a total of 450 people work at Dogmate, a pet sitter start-up.
“In the case of a full-time sitter, the person can earn as much as 3 million won a month,” said Lee Ha-young, the CEO of Dogmate. “Every month, more than 200 people apply to join our company.”
There is even a start-up in Korea that employs 70,000 babysitters.
Momsitter, a babysitter platform, has 70,000 sitters nationwide. The figure rose seven times in 10 months from 10,000 in October 2018. As babysitting tasks are fairly simple, 60 percent of Momsitter workers are college students and job seekers in their 20s.
The average hourly wage is 9,000 won, but workers have some control over this. Sitters write the hourly wage they want when applying for positions through the app.
Platform start-ups also contribute in creating jobs for impaired people. The app Anyman sends “helpers” to people in need, whether you just need someone to help get rid of a pesky cockroach or need a hand with a complicated piece of IKEA furniture. A number of the workers on the top 10 earners list at Anyman are impaired.
Yet, for gig workers, problems still remain.
To begin with, employers have a hard time in securing a guaranteed labor force. The reason why traditional companies that need workers for a short-time job are more likely to re-hire the same people or require some level of qualification is to ensure that workers are trustworthy.
The gig economy effectively removes this guarantee.
Meanwhile, the workers deal with employment instability. This stems from the fact that gig workers sign a contract as a self-employed worker or an individual businessperson rather than signing an employment contract.
BY KIM JUNG-MIN [firstname.lastname@example.org]
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