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Freelancers struggle with no govt support in pandemic

  • Published at 12:09 pm October 2nd, 2020
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Without any guidelines on how to operate in the new normal, many freelancers are growing more and more concerned about their future

Freelancers in various sectors are suffering more than most in the Covid-19 pandemic as they are not entitled to the same government support as recognized employees.

Without any guidelines on how to operate in the new normal, many freelancers are growing more and more concerned about their future.

Al Amin has been working as a freelance tour guide for the last four years and he has worked with several renowned tour companies, including Discovery Tours and Modhu Tours. He has not earned any money in the last five months, with the tourism industry at a standstill in the pandemic. 

Like many other freelancers in the tourism sector, Al Amin is struggling to provide for his family.  

The self-employed tour guide said he normally leads eight to 10 groups of tourists per year. His income varied depending on the number of people in a group and the number of places they visit, with up to Tk1 lakh coming from a single group.

"Now, I am going through extreme hardship and have to depend on my deposits, waiting to resume work. If this continues for a few more months, I will have to find an alternate means of income," Al Amin told Dhaka Tribune. 

Fazilatun Nesa Sheuly, a member of the Japanese Language Teachers Association of Bangladesh (JALTAB), said self-employed teachers are suffering from a declining number of students and they cannot resume teaching properly due to health safety concerns.

“Those who are working with a language school, institution, or teaching centre, are suffering less than self-employed teachers. Freelance teachers are not recognized by an organization, so they are not able to get any financial support. I have many connections with members of this freelancer group, but they don't know how they will survive,” she added. 

Freelance journalist Nahid Anjuman, who used to work for BBC Bangla, said: “I need at least Tk80,000 per month for my family expenses. In the last five months, BBC has not given me any assignments due to serious health safety concerns. I was never in such a financial crisis before the global pandemic. 

"I have another rental business, live streaming equipment, including cameras, and that business has also completely stopped," the senior journalist added. 

Dr Nazneen Ahmed, senior research fellow at Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS), told Dhaka Tribune: “If individuals are not registered with the government, then they do not have direct access to any budget allocations. The government allocated Tk20 crore for small and medium scale entrepreneurs.” 

She also said: “Globally, all types of institutions are trying to reduce costs.  In Bangladesh, we have no unemployment benefits program. If we had one, then it could have helped struggling freelancers. Considering the situation, freelancers may have to think about alternate jobs.” 

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