ISLAMABAD - Pakistan can boost its economy substantially by mainstreaming freelancers and exploring the potential of youth, who are 63 percent of the total population of the country.

Experts said that Pakistan should start trade of services with the neighbouring countries, especially in freelancing by involving the third party as financing mediator.

Hamza Saeed, the director of strategic planning and client services at Special Technology Zones Authority (STZA), told WealthPK that the factors of production were human brain, laptop and internet connection in the fourth industrial revolution. He said that freelancers could earn millions of dollars by working from home for the market of the USA/Europe. He added that freelancers just sought initial assistance from the government.

He said that freelancers could find work for themselves by surfing different websites. He added that unfortunately, the government even did not possess the record and data of freelancers in the country while Oxford Institute said that Pakistan secured the fourth rank in freelancing industry.

“Most of the freelancing firms start their businesses from garages by taking loans. In a few months they pay back the debt because they can make $2,000 to $3,000 per month,” said Hamza. He said that the consumption patterns had been changed and the capabilities of the young generation should be utilised in the technology sector. He said that 80 percent staff of STZA was less than 30 years of age. The average age of director is 32 years.

“The young people are the only option to take technology forward because the age of the emerging technology is also eight to nine years,” said Hamza. He said that a Pakistani engineer did not have opportunities in the applied field but he could get a job of a 200,000 salary if he was trained to work online.

“We have a large population with a stem background. We just need to register them with global certification. They can pay back in such a way that Pakistan will get rid of foreign loans,” he said.

According to a report of the Pakistan Software House association (P@SHA), in financial year 2020-21, the share of IT freelancers was 17 percent, $394 million, in the total IT exports of the country, which stood at $2.1 billion. The report said that the registered freelancers should be allowed to retain the foreign exchange as foreign currency up to a value of $100,000 so that they did not lose the value of their earnings due to the volatility of the foreign exchange rates. It added that the incentive would encourage the freelancers to bring the foreign exchanges to Pakistan that were currently parked offshore. The encouragement of freelancers will help Pakistan to boost its economy.

The report, a copy of which is available with WealthPK, said that currently freelancers were not included in the standard definition of IT and ITeS industry so they could not avail the services and incentives given to an industry. “For instance, foreign currency account retention is not allowed for freelancers. Also, every year freelancers contribute considerable revenue to the economy but it goes unreported,” the report added.