Peter Oreb has a bold prediction. The 42-year-old believes that in three years, firms in Asia will hire a lot more contingent employees. “Covid-19 accelerated this. Organisations and workers have embraced remote working. The former had to downsize their permanent workforce. But they still have to get work done. So they have brought in more skilled talent on contracts,” says Oreb.
Granted, Oreb has some skin in the game. The Singapore resident is the CEO of CXC Global, a business management consultant providing end-to-end outsourcing solutions. Think of them as an EaaS, or Employees-as-a-Service company. If you need capable contractors for a project, CXC Global will compile everything – from employees to payroll – together for you.
Still, Oreb has over two decades of experience in contingent workforce management and grew CXC Global from a 10-strong team in Australia to a global outfit of 182 staff managing over 15,000 professional independent employees. So he’s on the pulse of workplace trends. The statistics back him up, too.
While most of Asia’s workforce is currently permanent, there are a growing number of professionals in the other parts of the world who have left the corporate world to become independent talent.
In the US, 36 per cent of the workforce comprises contingent workers, contributing to 4.8 per cent of the GDP – above construction and transportation & warehousing. It’s the same story in Europe. As for Singapore, contingent workers made up 38 per cent of the workforce in 2019, according to the Singapore Business Review. Two years before, it was only 8 per cent.
“The introduction and proliferation of technology has provided people with additional opportunities for employment or income supplementation. Across the globe, more and more people are choosing to be a contingent employee,” Oreb elaborates.
This transformation is gathering pace in Asia, reveals Oreb. When he first moved to Singapore in 2016, Oreb realised that almost everyone was a full-time employee. Contract positions were mainly in the blue-collar space. Since then, however, CXC Global’s business in Asia has grown between 25 and 30 per cent annually for the past three years. The pandemic has only sped up this transformation.
Project-based industries welcome a higher proportion of contingent workers, which clarifies why the IT sector is one of CXC’s Global biggest markets. “One of our biggest customers in Asia is the Cathay Pacific airline. Its contingent workforce grew between 15 and 20 per cent in the last 15 months because of all the digital projects the airline is undertaking,” Oreb says. “As industries mature, organisations will have a smaller core set of permanent employees to focus on the business-as-usual activities.”
A contingent workforce also has a surprising benefit. “When you introduce diversity to the company, you get innovation. The interaction between the permanent employees and contingent workforce usually presents interesting views you won’t get if both groups work in silos,” explains Oreb.
“As industries mature, organisations will have a smaller core set of permanent employees to focus on the business-as-usual activities.”
Peter Oreb, CEO of CXC Global, on how organisations will continue to remain agile in the future
And lest you think contract employees have a disadvantage with remuneration negotiations, Oreb states that it’s the opposite. High-value knowledge employees can command their own rates because they are very much in demand.
“In Asia, companies pay contract workers less than they do permanent employees. I think you’ll see that dynamic slowly shift to mimic the West, where contingent employees get a 20 to 30 per cent premium because companies want to pull them away from their permanent roles,” Oreb says.
CXC Global also helps to solve two of the biggest problems with a contingent workforce – visibility and compliance. When a contingent employee joins a company, CXC Global handles the entire process, from onboarding and contracts to even medical benefits.
And with companies casting their nets overseas in search of talent, CXC Global’s role becomes even more important. “Technology has helped companies connect to a global market but the missing piece of the puzzle is compliance. We help to navigate the complexities of employment and tax laws, ensure that firms pay contingent employees, and more,” Oreb explains.
“Ultimately, we help clients better manage their workforce by giving them access to quality talent and having better visibility of their contingent workforce so that they can remain agile with their plans.” In a world filled with so much uncertainty, agility is perhaps a company’s most valuable asset. And CXC Global is in the perfect place to provide this, thanks to Oreb’s prescient leadership.