Thanks to rising electricity rates and fuel prices, not to mention an imminent increase in income tax, making ends meet as a South African has never been harder. Now more than ever, we need to find alternative ways to make it to the end of the month and microjobbing in the digital space is a great opportunity of doing so.
In March this year, South Africans were warned to prepare for an even higher cost of living, with economists forecasting price hikes from April. This followed Finance Minister, Nhlanhla Nene’s budget speech outlining a one percent increase in personal tax (the first in 20 years), as well as increased fuel levies and sin taxes. We’ve already seen this come to fruition with the recent R1,60 petrol price increase, coming soon after the short-lived joy of the petrol price decline at the end of 2014. Along with these price hikes, the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) has said that electricity prices are set to rise by an average of 13% for the year from April until the end of March 2016.
These heightened expenses make life difficult for the average South African to make ends meet. In fact, the 12th UASA employment report said that the last time the average person’s disposable income increased faster than his or her gross salary was in 2008. Once expenses such as taxes, UIF, municipal rates, medical aid and other necessities are taken care of, the average adult has less than 17% of his or her gross salary available to spend. And it’s not just the low earners feeling the pinch – roughly 70% of South Africans earning up to R1 million annually are living beyond their means and struggling to make ends meet, according to a study by Old Mutual.
But it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. With the rise of the digital economy and microjobbing platforms like M4JAM, the way we define work is evolving and the boundaries between work and play are blurring. This is why the concept of microjobbing is really taking off; allowing people to use the mobile devices that have become so much a part of their lives, to complete small, simple tasks in the course of their daily lives – in exchange for much needed cash when their formal income just doesn’t cut it.
In the short time that M4JAM has been around, it’s been incredibly insightful to discover the ways in which our ‘jobbers’ find creative ways to leverage the platform and get as much return as possible. For some, it really does mean the difference between just scraping by or having some financial peace of mind; for others, it means they can continue to enjoy the finer things in life even when rising living costs make this more difficult.
We’ve recently been involved in a study conducted by the Oxford Internet Institute to better understand the digital economy and its societal implications, and some of the Institute’s discussions with our jobbers illustrate just how much of an impact microjobbing can have. With proper planning, it’s possible to make up to R500 per week, working just a couple of hours a day, perhaps on their way to and from a full-time job. We’ve heard stories of jobbers being able to buy half a week’s worth of groceries or paying for petrol with their microjobbing earnings, and others have even been able to afford their medical bills, rent or pay off some of their loans thanks to the series of small tasks they have completed. Some have managed to put some of the money away as savings despite rising living costs, while others have managed to keep enjoying an occasional meal at a restaurant – a luxury when money is tight and each bottle of wine or beer will set you back an extra 15 cents.
M4JAM is not an alternative to having a formal job with a regular salary, but it certainly helps when money is tight – and let’s be real: when is it not, given our ever-increasing expenses? It’s about not accepting the status quo that you can’t make ends meet; there is always a way to make some easy money, even if it’s one job and R20 at a time. Now more than ever, the question becomes a reality: can you afford not to be part of the digital economy?