A growing number of Bangladeshi youths are joining online marketplaces but receiving lower payment as they can hardly match technical and language skills required for highly paid jobs worldwide, these freelancers admit.
They say most of them can earn US$600-700 a month on average whereas the ones equipped with better skills and training have the scope to secure an income of up to $4,000 a month.
Apart from skills deficiency, the Bangladeshi freelancers face the challenge of what they call inflexible payment gateway that makes them ‘less competitive’ in the global online markets.
Authorities, however, claim that freelancers are reluctant to share necessary information for taking remedial measures.
Amid scarcity of job opportunities at home, many students and fresh graduates try to make a living by doing freelancing jobs even if they are ill-prepared for meeting global standards.
Their number is believed to be 750,000 and the amount of remittances they bring in is estimated to be $100 million.
Average Bangladeshi freelancers have so far proved themselves as cheap workers, a poor branding that they helplessly regret.
Hamid Hossain Azad, 23, a fresh graduate from Dhaka College, has been carrying out assignments relating to graphics designing and digital marketing for about three years. He can earn about $600 a month on average.
“I saw my elder brother’s struggle for a government job despite being a topper at the University of Dhaka. So, I have started supporting my family financially,” Azad told The Financial Express.
There are 30-40 types of freelancing jobs but most Bangladeshis support the companies in distant places on graphics designing or data entry.“We can’t grab better opportunities. I think, we need to emphasise skills upgrading and invest in it,” he said adding that most freelancers do not have capacity to invest in skills development.
They also face difficulty in receiving money due to absence of payment methods like PayPal, which is yet to start formally serving the Bangladeshi remittance earners.
Mujahidul Islam Jahid, a graduate from Jahangirnagar University and now CEO of Karigor Digital, terms absence of PayPal service as a greater challenge to remittance earning by freelancers. “We have to pay through PayPal wallet if we run digital marketing or boost a page on Social Media. In that case we have to buy dollars in exchange for Taka from those who have PayPal valid accounts elsewhere,” he said.
He mentioned that many young people are joining the online marketplaces to offer low-level skills in exchange for low wages due to lack of proper skills. In this content, he pointed out that freelancer with better training can earn $3000-$4000 a month.
Both Jahid and Azad emphasised uninterrupted and high-speed internet connection for accessing outsourcing jobs of globally rep uted companies and organisations.
Bangladesh, 135th out of 137 countries, is ahead of only Afghanistan and Venezuela in mobile internet speed, according to Ookla, a global platform that measures internet speed.
Freelancers also say weak English language and communication skills are a major barrier to getting more rewarding jobs and on a regular basis.
“There is a branding challenge for Bangladeshi freelancers as we work for cheap payment. Our hourly payment is extremely low compared to those from some other countries,” Bangladesh Freelancer Development Society (BFDS) Chairman Tanjiba Rahman told this correspondent.
There are government training facilities for beginners, not at an advanced level. “Entrepreneurs get work orders but can’t sustain due to lack of skilled manpower with diversified knowledge,” she explained. “Thus we can’t earn expected remittances through freelancing.”
Bangladesh can focus on developing freelancers’ skills in accounting, legal profession, research support and such areas, according to stakeholders.
The government has recently announced a 4.0 per cent cash incentive for freelancers work on marketplaces.
The government has also decided to provide identity cards for freelancers and the BFDS chairman said her organisation is coordinating the service of issuing cards for freelancers.
Dwelling on the issue of absence of PayPal service in Bangladesh, Ms Tanjiba Rahman said most freelancers are not coming up with the information required to persuade PayPal authorities to come to the Bangladesh market.
The Bangladesh government has enlisted 55 international online marketplaces to determine eligibility of freelancers to access cash incentive.
Nahid Sultana Mallik, Joint Secretary (Human Resource Development Branch), Information and Communication Technology Division, said there is no development in terms of PayPal’s entry into the Bangladesh market.
The government, however, has taken a number of projects for skills development of freelancers and to promote e-commerce, she added.
Abul Fatah Md Baligur Rahman, a deputy secretary assigned for the Digital Entrepreneurship and Innovation Ecosystem Development Project, said they are running skills development training for youths across the country.
“Many youths join our training and subsequently get employment opportunities which help them become self-dependent and contribute to the country’s economy,” he added.