With the fast digitalisation of today's world, many developing countries, such as Bangladesh, are shifting their focus on the global market for digital outsourcing. The digitalisation of a country's economy not only spurs innovation within the service industry but also creates domestic job prospects, allowing faster economic growth.
In order to reduce costs and risks, many multinational firms in developed countries such as the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia are resorting to IT outsourcing in countries such as Bangladesh, resulting in a recent surge in freelancing.
Bangladesh was already on its way to becoming one of the key forces that are providing worldwide outsourcing services, and the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic has only fueled this sector’s growth further.
Like many economies in the world, Bangladesh has also seen a contraction in its economic growth, which resulted in many people losing their income sources. Income shrank for a lot of people too, and this job loss/contraction in income has induced many educated youths to join the freelancing market to earn a living.
The pandemic has also pushed many foreign companies and organisations to shift their workload online, and as a result, the worldwide demand for IT work exporters has also increased massively, giving rise to an increased demand for freelance workers around the globe.
Bangladesh, according to a recent study by the Oxford Internet Institute (OII), has come up as the second-largest supplier of online labourers with a labour share of 16 per cent, trailing only India which has a 24 per cent labour share.
Currently, Bangladesh has around 650 thousand IT service exporters or freelancers, with roughly 1,600 team-based freelancing organisations. According to industry sources, they earn approximately USD 500 million every year.
So what is fueling this growth in Bangladesh?
The prime factor has to do with the uncertainty in the local job market. There are not enough vacancies for educated youths in the market, and the growing young population has become increasingly frustrated with the lack of opportunity, nepotism and favouritism in the often saturated professional sector.
Secondly, the local companies hardly treat their employees with minimum decency; underpayment and overworking is a common phenomena among many job holders in the market. The lack of flexibility in working hours and time-consuming traffics are also among the factors that are discouraging youths from joining the local job market.
Working as a freelancer, a person can earn decent money while working less, enjoy much more work flexibility, and can save much valuable time that would have been lost in the daily commute.
As people are getting more aware of their working rights, these perks of freelancing work have become appealing to a lot of people. Also, completing freelancing projects works as a plus for students to get university tuitions abroad as they can include their works in their skill sets.
So freelancing has become especially popular amongst the undergraduate students in our country.
If the current trend continues, Bangladesh is well on course to become a global freelancing hub in this decade.
Although the freelancing works are not without its difficulties either; the payment system for freelancers in Bangladesh is still complicated and getting established in the freelancing community is getting harder.
There is still a large skill gap in the demand side of freelance work and the regulations need to be updated and revised to make them more suitable for the online labour force.