Sometimes, it’s helpful to remember just how much we take for granted as employees in a developed economy – legal protection, a reasonable salary that’s paid on time, and predictable job scope. For informal workers in Thailand and Indonesia, these are privileges that few enjoy, and fewer yet can hope for other benefits such as health insurance and social security.

At the same time, the informal sector is economically indispensable to these decentralised economies, accounting for the vast majority of jobs and a sizeable portion of GDP in provincial cities. Perspectives on the future of the informal economy differ, but there’s no question that the treatment of informal workers in these countries leaves much to be desired.

Helpster empowers informal workers to take charge of the work they do by offering them hourly-based “gig” jobs in their physical proximity, allowing them to choose which ones to apply for and manage their own schedule. We were impressed by their purposeful application of technology to address the most pressing problems facing these workers – from consolidating geographically disparate jobs using their smart matching algorithm to payment integration that ensures fair wages are paid on time.

Helpster workers at a briefing; Helpster not only sources their workers but, through an initial face-to-face interview and background checks, verifies their legitimacy and fitness to work.

More broadly, Helpster is also about increasing market efficiency in the informal sector. Informal companies often operate at a fraction of the productivity of formal companies in the same business, and the hundreds of USD they spend monthly on traditional HR agencies is certainly an expense that can be done away with. As the already diverse Southeast Asian labour market continues to evolve, we believe that Helpster and its ability to leverage the speed and flexibility of digital matchmaking has much to offer.