Pakistan’s digital world-of-work

With a 49.4 percent labour-population ratio, Pakistan has more than 37 percent share of employment from the services sector as per ILO Country Profiles in 2021. According to the Oxford Online Labour Index, Pakistan is home to the third-largest population of professionals related to the global crowd work gig industry after India and Bangladesh. Its global market share is nearly 11 percent.
For Pakistan, a move from conventional to digitisation was on the cards and inevitable due to the shift in technologies and the demand of the modern day and times. Government investment in enhancing digital skills has also helped to create a skilled freelancer workforce turning into an industry-leading big chunk of contribution to the country’s remittances. State Bank of Pakistan, in its first quarterly report for 2019, also recognised the increase in freelancing work and its impact on ICT exports, attributing this to “improved internet access to more than 2,000 cities across Pakistan; a large number of graduates entering the workforce; and government efforts to promote freelancing as the key factors behind this growth”. The industry’s way of operations changing rapidly also ingratiate the labour market’s response and job creation. Eventually, the job market migrated from conventional to digital.
The previous government launched the “Digital Pakistan” initiative to set the country’s digital ambition, designed to work towards a digitally progressive and inclusive Pakistan. Pakistan fell into the last quartile of countries, overall ranking 76th out of 100 countries and 24th out of 26 Asian countries due to low level of digital literacy and poor-quality networks.
Digitisation of the economy not only promotes the employment of young graduates in finance, accounting, marketing, law and tax consultants but also gives us the exact data of the economy and makes it easier for the government to calculate its revenue sources. The national community of freelancers generated $216.788 million in the July-December period of the fiscal year 2021-22 through the export of their services, according to WealthPK in data released by the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunications.
Through this tech-eco shift, the Pakistani start-up ecosystem has strengthened over the years. Only in the first half of 2021, local start-ups were able to raise a record-breaking 120 million dollars in funding. Pakistan’s freelancing market currently sits pretty in the Asian rankings and grows at an annual rate of 74 percent. It is likely to fetch $5 billion of export remittances every year as the authorities gear up to take the country to the number one spot from the existing fourth position in the fastest-growing freelancing markets globally.
Organisations such as the Pakistan Software House Association (P@SHA) act as the voice of the digital industry. According to a report of P@SHA, in the 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 Government of Pakistan will have to evolve very quickly and develop mechanisms to enforce policies and laws about intellectual property and the digitisation of its virtual economy. To support ease of business, and user experiences, protect privacy, security, and digitisation of businesses and individuals from fraud and misrepresentations.

The writer is a development communication professional in education and labour market promotion in Pakistan.

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