Is Precariousness in the Eye of the Beholder? Using Self-perceived Employability to Understand the Perspectives of Filipino Online Freelancers

Nico Hemp

Student thesis: Master thesis


This thesis studies the labour market opportunities of online freelancers from the Philippines. Precisely, it explores the role of employability in defining the working conditions in process outsourcing from the perspective of independent contractors.
Local policy makers endorse freelancing as a job engine, especially for the poor rural areas. At the same time, a debate about work without labour securities spills over from OECD countries to the global South. Previous research has shown that such precarious working conditions are common among contract-workers. Additionally, this thesis found that career progress is fragile.
To understand freelancers’ motivations for their job choice, perceived employability first was assessed by means of a survey for both the organizational and the freelance labour market. Educational status and distance from urban areas were used as independent
variables. The results highlighted that a remote location weakly predicts perceived freelance employability, while educational status was not significantly related to it. However, graduates from the city see themselves in the position to choose between organizational and freelance employment.
In subsequently conducted semi-structured interviews, individuals from this group explained their preference for independent contracting with a higher degree of autonomy and higher wages relative to available ‘stable jobs’. This is an important finding since it urges caution when applying the Eurocentric notion of precariousness to the global South, even if individuals act on globalized labour markets.
It further suggests self-perceived employability as a tool to test subjective job security in environments with fluid class structures and thereby achieve a more differentiated view of the big group of independent contractors, freelancers or temporary workers.

EducationsMSc in International Business and Politics, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2017
Number of pages123