TOWARDS A SELF-EMPLOYED ECONOMY: UNDERSTANDING THE GIG ECONOMY OF BANGLADESH

TOWARDS A SELF-EMPLOYED ECONOMY: UNDERSTANDING THE GIG ECONOMY OF BANGLADESH

 

Imagine that you’re a college student in a developing city like Dhaka where the costs of living are extremely high relative to the standard of living it offers. Your parents are unable to pay for your university education due to the shutting down of your father’s business and your mother losing her job, thanks to the pandemic.

 

You’ll not land any formal jobs, firstly, because you don’t have the certificates to attest your qualifications, secondly, even certificate holders do not get adequate jobs in an overly populated country like Bangladesh, and last but not the least, you will not have the time to attend a full-time job while keeping up your attendance at the university. There are two options you have available.

 

Either give up on education to do some small business or work part-time to support your education. The social stigma against working at restaurants or at some gas station like the Westerners is tremendous here in Bangladesh. So, your best bet would be to take up contractual jobs online and work under a piece-wise payment system.

 

ENTER THE GIG LEGION

 

A gig economy can be defined as a labor market characterized by the prevalence of short-term contracts or freelance work as opposed to permanent jobs. Gig workers are provided with the opportunity to decide who to work for and what work they wish to accept depending on its type, payment, duration till deadline, etc. Prior to the pandemic, the gig economy took up around 34% of the global workforce. The reason behind this is the convenience that freelancing provides.

 

First of all, you get work from the comfort of your home, which also means that you are saving up on conveyance costs as well as the time and hassle that is associated with traveling to the office. Secondly, you’re not having to deal with any annoying bosses or colleagues. Thirdly, you get to choose when and what type of work you wish to do.

 

WHERE BANGLADESH STANDS

 

A recent study found that about 70% of freelancers, worldwide, aim to achieve a better work-life balance. And whenever we talk about a gig economy mentioning Bangladesh is inevitable, a leading name in the gig market. As per Oxford International Institute, Bangladesh is the 2nd favorite country to supply online labor, India being the first. 

 

In 2021, Bangladesh had a 27% increment in its gig workforce. It is estimated that by 2030, Bangladesh is projected to be the 24th largest economy in the world, with a substantial contribution to the gig economy. In addition, the emergence of COVID-19 has led to a lot of people losing jobs due to lockdown.

 

In such a scenario, instead of sitting idle at home with empty pockets, a lot of people turned to the gig market in order to keep the income coming in for at least making ends meet. As a result, the supply of gig workers in Bangladesh (and all around the world, especially in third world countries) bloated up. This is can be used to our advantage by preparing a workforce that is not just plentiful in numbers but also technically advanced and high in quality, turning our population to our benefit.

 

This way, the labor force can become human capital and act as the country’s asset, bringing in remittance money for an enhanced and sustainable economy of the country in times of such crisis. Moreover, with the increased number of freelance workers, Bangladesh will have a workforce that is more tech-literate and flexible, defying the traditional methods and definition of “work”. People will have better time management and more leisure, equating to a higher standard of living throughout the country. 

 

CHALLENGES ALONG THE WAY

 

However, there are some roadblocks and barriers yet in the local market. First and foremost, Bangladesh does not have a gig market of its own, meaning Bangladeshis have to work in the digital platforms of other countries.

 

This invalidates person-job fit and working in platforms such as Fiverr and Upwork, where getting started may take up a significant amount of time for the local workers. Moreover, the payment infrastructure of these websites can intimidate local workers, especially those living in rural areas and lacking knowledge of computer technology and international trade. Thus, lack of credibility can be a problem for both the employer and the employee. Additionally, the country having the 133rd mobile internet speed in the world does not help much in this case either.

 

LIFTING THE SCENARIO

 

There are several steps the Bangladesh government can take in order to make this growing sector a pivotal point in the economy, bearing fruitful results for the economy.

 

Firstly, the government can start by developing a freelance platform of its own. This way the credibility issue and the payment infrastructure problem will be solved. In addition, locals not having a strong grasp of foreign languages can choose to work for local employers only, enabling them to make an income as well.

 

Furthermore, certain and laws must be established and imposed to facilitate the credibility and growth of this sector. Lastly, teenagers and young adults with computers and technical proficiency must grab this opportunity to work from the comfort of their home, earning a few extra bucks while gaining valuable work experience for their future full-time jobs while carrying on with education. The gig economy of Bangladesh is promising and is likely to bear fruitful results in the future. 

By Farhat Chowdhury

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