Henley Business School Africa is proud to release What is the Future of Work in South Africa? Examining the side hustle economy'. This ground breaking study was conducted in the first part of 2019, building on a similar study conducted last year by Henley Business School UK, to establish the prevalence of the gig economy – the prevalence of flexible on demand freelance work.
In this case, the study looked at both Side Hustlers, those with side hustles different to their main jobs, and Side Jobbers, those who performed the same kind of work but to more than just the main employer.
The findings were unequivocal, more and more South Africans are holding down more than one job – 27% of the respondents in fact - some just to make ends meet in a flaccid economy with little chance of growth or salary increase, others to use their main job to allow them to pursue their dream jobs that would otherwise be unsustainable.
But far from being a threat to the South African economy, this new trend could provide original answers. It can stimulate entrepreneurship and build entrepreneurial skills. It can help companies retain their best talent - talented employees prefer to stay with or work for companies that allow side hustling. It can provide benefits for companies - especially those, like most, who are struggling with rising staff costs and salary expectations and the rising tide of joblessness. Side-Hustlers are considerably harder workers than their colleagues in the same company, working an average of 53 hours a week on their main jobs, over the average 43 of other permanently employed staff.
Most of them have no intention of leaving their main employment either – even if their side hustle takes off. They create employment for others too in their side hustles or side jobs. Side Hustlers and Side Jobbers also became multiskilled at their own expense, but to the benefit of their main jobs, they are effectively in-house entrepreneurs
And, the longer they side hustle the more efficient they become, taking less time to earn the same amount of money from their side enterprises and continuing to invest the same level of care to their main jobs. Side Jobbers earn up to a quarter of their income from their side job(s) while Side Hustlers earn an extra 20%.
The phenomenon isn’t underground either, more than three quarters of both side hustlers and side jobbers who have been in their main jobs for longer than 10 years have told their employers about it. So, what does it mean for South African business?
“We’ve been aware of this phenomenon anecdotally for some time, which is why we wanted to apply some academic rigour to it,” says Henley Business School Africa dean and director Jon Foster-Pedley.
“What it immediately proves is that it makes compelling business sense to regularise and legitimise this practice in companies to everyone’s benefits because these side hustlers and side jobbers are incredible innovative and creative and already among a company’s greatest assets. They learn new skills that they bring back into their primary employment. Instead of developing national incubators, which are often seen to be of little value, we might incubate a whole new wave of entrepreneurs who are side hustling while working, and building economic value and jobs. It may open the door to more job sharing and shorter working weeks as side hustlers spend more time on their other ventures.
“There’s an option here to create a win-win scenario and help, indirectly, create jobs, especially in the SMME space, but just as importantly, this is a signal – if we ever needed reminding – that the old business practices, the asphyxiating 9-5 conformity drummed into all of us by the monolithic corporates of yore is over.”
Building creatives, in this case by allowing for and encouraging flexible mould shattering arrangements, would have massive benefits not just to the economy but to the companies themselves, Foster-Pedley said.
“This report should force all of us to think about how best to address the future rather being stuck in a model that was based on a historic economy that in South Africa simply no longer exists anymore.”