• Wednesday, Feb 08, 2023
  • Last Update : 09:54 am

Bangladeshi freelancers, outsourcing sector hit hard by coronavirus

  • Published at 08:50 am May 19th, 2020
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Stakeholders said the government should give financial aid to workers who lost their jobs

At a time when coronavirus had spread to developed countries and led to the shutdown of many companies, freelancers and outsourcing companies in Bangladesh started feeling the pinch as work orders fell drastically, leaving many without a job.

“Around 80% freelancers are now out of work,” said Bangladesh Freelancers Development Society (BFDS) General Secretary Mahfuzur Rahman.

Bangladesh supplies 16% of the total online workers, the second highest after India which provides 24%, according to 2017 Online Labour Index of Oxford Internet Institute.

Rapid digitalization spurred the growth of this sector and insiders say many youths now opt for freelancing, outsourcing and e-commerce.

South Asian Network on Economic Modeling (SANEM) said the informal sector employs around 89% of the total employed youths in Bangladesh and disruption of economic activities due to the pandemic is affecting 20 million youths.

Stakeholders said the government should give financial aid to workers who lost their jobs.

Mentioning that Bangladesh has some 600,000 freelancers, Mahfuzur further added: “We will have a billion dollar market in future. So, the government has to bring some basic changes through proper planning and support for the workers,”

He also demanded inclusion under the stimulus packages for Small and Medium Entrepreneurs.

Tough time

The International Monetary Fund said the world was facing the worst recession since the Great Depression in the 1930s. Bangladesh shut down all non-essential sectors as it imposed a countrywide shutdown to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

The pandemic disrupted the global supply chain and forced countries around the world to initiate lockdown. Factories and companies were shut and millions have been left jobless.

Kamruzzaman, senior image editor of CutOutWiz Ltd, said they are passing through a very difficult time.

“Many graphics companies in Bangladesh were forced to shut down as they do not have work. Many workers have already lost their jobs,” he said, requesting the government to save these workers.

Apel Mahmud, co-founder at bZm Graphics, said their work orders came down by 60% to 70% in the last several months due to Covid-19.

“About 300 people used to work in my company. Now the number is at 120 because we don’t have enough work,” he said urging the government to waive internet and electricity bills for at least three months.

Bangladesh Association of Call Center and Outsourcing (BACCO) Secretary General Towhid Hossain said the outsourcing sector had been feeling the blow since February.

“Our work had reduced by around 40% to 50% in the last one month as many business establishments have remained shut due to COVID-19,” he said, fearing that works will come down by 80% if the situation continued for two more months.

“There are 56,000 outsourcing workers of 151 companies and around 700,000 freelancers in the country. Many of them have lost jobs and are passing difficult times. The government can give us work,” he said.

‘Youths at risk’

Zubayer Hossen, research economist at SANEM, said most startups were initiated by youths, who are now exposed to the threat posed by coronavirus pandemic.

“There are around 500,000 freelancers in the country. Due to the pandemic, the economic activities of these freelancers have decreased substantially, which subsequently will cause a drop in their incomes,” he said.

Zubayer emphasised specific stimulus packages targeting these startups.

The e-Commerce Association of Bangladesh said it has 1,200 member entrepreneurs who employ around 125,000 people. E-commerce is a Tk 8,000 crore market in Bangladesh.

With a 2%contribution to the country’s GDP, an estimated 80,000 families purchase goods from e-commerce sites daily, according to e-Cab but it claimed that the sector counted Tk666 crore losses since April as coronavirus halted activities of 85% of the institutions.

E-Cab advisory council member Nahim Razzaq, MP, said the e-commerce industry has a massive potential.

“I think the industry $1.3 billion right now. Some 2,000 e-commerce entrepreneurs are engaged here. We’ll get good results in the future if we all work together,” he said.

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