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Tech For Good: An Acumen Fellow’s Journey Driving A Tech-Powered Job Revolution For Gig Workers

Malaysia Fellow Joelle Pang is transforming the gig work landscape through technology, offering a holistic transformation in the lives of many.

Moral imagination means to view other people’s problems as if they were your own and to begin to discern how to tackle those problems. And then to act accordingly. It summons us to understand and transcend the realities of current circumstances and to envision a better future for ourselves and others. – Jacqueline Novogratz, Manifesto for a Moral Revolution

FastGig, launched in 2021, is a job platform in Southeast Asia catered for job seekers looking for gig opportunities. The platform is a subsidiary of the leading Singapore-headquartered FastCo that also runs a job platform for blue-collar work, FastJobs.

At the helm of FastGig, Joelle Pang is reimagining the job landscape, leveraging technology to move beyond providing just one-time gigs for its gig workers. The platform currently hosts over 5,000 Giggers who have secured jobs through it.

Joelle firmly believes in humanity’s innate drive to create and sees the crucial factor of finding apt tools to empower people to make valuable societal contributions. With a 15-year track record, she has been a tech-focused entrepreneur and organisational architect.

It just so happens that the tool I’ve chosen to create with is technology because it enables scalable and cost-effective solutions. – Joelle Pang 

In 2017, her tech career led her to work in human resources, where she discovered how important job security is as a stepping stone for families and individuals to progress.

Jobs are the foundation for how people discover themselves, their jobs become the value they bring to the world, and serve as a stepping stone to various aspects of life, including education. They contribute to social security and enhance the prospects for oneself and one’s family. – Joelle Pang 

Jobs as the Enabler for Social Mobility

The pandemic has brought about a substantial shift in the job market, and Joelle noted its pronounced effects on low-income groups, specifically the B40 community in Malaysia. Traditional employment was transforming to encompass a blended workforce of full-timers, part-timers and gig workers,  as seen through FastJobs data: acknowledging the rising trend of remote work and the increasing demand among job seekers for more flexible job engagements across the board.

Joelle shares that gig workers constitute 26% of Malaysia’s workforce as of 2023, which is equivalent to four million freelancers, a number that is steadily rising. 

Most of our operational job seekers now require flexibility more than ever because they were unable to commit to full-time jobs as they did previously. We have encountered numerous job seekers who have had to assume caregiving responsibilities. Working six-day or five-day work weeks is no longer feasible for them. – Joelle Pang 

By understanding the pressing needs of job seekers within the market, FastGig came into the picture. Aligned with FastCo’s mission and vision of providing equal access to job opportunities for everyone, the platform addressed the essential need for job seeker flexibility while assisting struggling employers in filling job vacancies.

FastGig was a solution that we implemented to support and allow our employers to consider the option of a blended workforce, comprising full-timers, part-timers, and freelancers. This approach meets employers’ operational needs and continues to provide our job seekers in the manual, services and semi-skilled (MSS) industries access to jobs with dignity, even after their circumstances have changed. – Joelle Pang

Creating Jobs With Dignity 

When I was in my early teens, I observed how my dad lost his job due to technological disruption in his industry. While my dad left with his head held high, life changed not just for him, but also for our entire family. – Joelle Pang 

The event triggered a chain reaction within the household. This personal experience became the driving force behind Joelle’s unwavering commitment to innovation within the industry — providing jobs with dignity, especially for individuals earning low wages.

Gig jobs, however, extend beyond the conventional understanding of e-hailing drivers, riders,  and digital nomads. In a broader context, gig work embodies a more expansive description wherein individuals essentially function as independent contractors without forging a relationship with their employers. 

Gig workers face social protection vulnerabilities because of the lack of written contracts between the employee and employer. In response, FastGig has gone a step further in protecting the rights of gig workers.

Today, we provide workplace insurance to our gig workers at our own cost. We provide coverage for any injuries or fatalities that occur in the workplace. However, I believe it has the potential to extend beyond that. – Joelle Pang

Allowing Moral Imagination to Shape the Vision

In her role as a leader within a for-profit company, Joelle has steered the direction of FastGig with a pronounced emphasis on social impact. Her involvement in the 2023 Acumen Fellowship has given her the confidence that FastGig is on the right track, ensuring that it not only generates profit but also has a positive impact on the people it serves.

Once you have a moral imagination, what follows are various options and distinct next steps that you can undertake. You have choices and a path forward that brings you closer to achieving the greater good or getting a few steps closer to the world you aspire to witness. – Joelle Pang 

By placing herself in the position of job seekers, the innovation and solutions at FastGig move beyond the first step of securing a job. Today, FastGig aims to transform their gig workers’ lives holistically.

It’s about considering what factors contribute to the holistic well-being of gig workers. For instance, how can we assist them in achieving financial inclusion or establishing a healthier financial ecosystem within the gig economy? Additionally, we’re exploring concepts like micro-insurance and even providing opportunities for upskilling and training. – Joelle Pang 

Joelle acknowledges that some of her plans require substantial effort to be put into action. Frequently, being a woman in the tech field focused on social impact can feel isolating and solitary. The Acumen Fellowship has connected Joelle with diverse and passionate individuals making positive contributions within their respective domains. Through Acumen, she is now walking alongside fellow individuals who share the same moral compass. 

We are all creating change in our own ways, and meeting passionate entrepreneurs and individuals moving ahead, even during challenging times. There’s a sense of solidarity and resonance within this shared experience. – Joelle Pang 

While growing up, Joelle may have grappled with a feeling of helplessness as she witnessed her father’s job loss. Now, drawing wisdom from that past and adopting the perspective of job seekers, Joelle is leading the charge at FastGig to pioneer solutions and innovations that genuinely impact the well-being of individuals and families.

FastGig connects low-wage job seekers in the manual, service, and semi-skilled industries to gainful jobs in the gig economy through technology. Their goal is to improve the livelihoods of gig workers by providing access to decent work, enhancing their social mobility, and improving their financial well-being by leveraging post-pandemic job market transformations.

In partnership with the Malaysia Acumen Academy, we invite you to embark on your social change journey. Explore the Acumen Academy course with inspiring case studies from Joelle and other Fellows. Discover the 2023 Malaysia Acumen Fellows making a difference.

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