Most people will associate the digital economy with highly skilled computer engineers and marketing professionals, but the foot soldiers of the trade are those low-level employees who drive Ubers and deliver food. Their working conditions are often called into question. Digital enterprises usually don’t directly employ their laborers, creating the so-called gig economy. In it, workers are self-employed while in reality only working for a single company that still doesn’t have to provide benefits to them. At the same time, most innovative companies can only deliver the savings that they do because they are able to calculate just when they need labor and are only paying for it then.
Looking at the global state of self-employment, it becomes apparent that there is in fact an inverse correlation between the proportion of self-employed workers and the GDP of their countries. According to data from the International Labour Organization, only 12.2 percent of workers are self-employed on average in high-income economies while in low-income economies, this figure rises to 80.3 percent. This is an indicator of the prevalence of subsistence farming and people working without pay for their family businesses (also counted as self-employed in the data).
In 2019, Niger had the highest rate of self-employment in the world at more than 95 percent. Arab countries posted the lowest rates of self-employment. 4.9 percent of workers were earning their wages independently in the United Arab Emirates in 2019. In Kuwait and Qatar, this number was even lower at 1.8 percent and 0.4 percent, respectively.