Bangladesh is among a few developing countries that emerged as major suppliers to the global market of digital labour platforms, which have seen a five-fold growth worldwide in the last decade, says a report of the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
The ILO's latest World Employment and Social Outlook 2021 report shows software development and technology are the most sought-after occupations on these platforms across countries with demand increasing between 2018 and 2020.
But the share of demand for creative and multimedia, clerical and data entry, and writing and translation has declined in most countries due to the uncertainty caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
During the period, Bangladesh saw a surge in creative and multimedia tasks, while sales and marketing support works marked a significant fall. Though writing and translation as well as clerical and data entry jobs saw some gains, software technology-based tasks dropped while professional services almost disappeared, according to the ILO report released in Geneva yesterday.
Better pay work-from-home scope or job flexibility are factors that motivate mainly youths and women to work on digital platforms, says the report that examines the role of digital platforms in transforming the world of work.
"I live in an overpopulated country where it is very tough to get a good job. The pay is better than usual jobs, I am my own boss and I like the freedom," the report quoted a male Bangladeshi freelancer.
Working from home or job flexibility are particularly important for women both in developed and developing countries alike. About 23 per cent of women who perform online work have children under the age of six years.
"As a woman, I prefer to work from home. I earn better than others. I have a child. I can maintain my family instead of doing a regular job. That's the reason I prefer to work from home," a female Bangladeshi respondent on freelance platform told the ILO surveyers.
The report also refers to occupational problems and stresses caused by the need to work "unsocial hours" on online web-based platforms. Many are worried about health risks from long working hours in front of a screen.
"Freelancing work is done at night so this is a big problem. I am a hard worker and work over 16 hours per day. This has an impact on my health and mental stress. My family depends on my income," says a Bangladeshi male respondent on freelance platform.
On app-based taxi and delivery platforms, a high proportion of respondents reported feeling stressed by their work and working conditions. This is often due to traffic congestion, insufficient payment and lack of jobs and long wait for customers.
Digital labour platforms are providing new work opportunities, including for women, persons with disabilities, young people and those marginalized in traditional labour markets. Platforms also allow businesses to access a large flexible workforce with varied skills, while expanding their customer base, according to the ILO report.
The report focuses on two main types of digital labour platform: online web-based platforms, where tasks are performed online and remotely by workers, and location-based platforms, where tasks are performed at a specified physical location by individuals, such as taxi drivers and delivery workers.
Its findings are based on surveys and interviews with some 12,000 workers and representatives of 85 businesses around the world in multiple sectors.
The supply of labour on these platforms originates mainly from a number of developing countries, in particular Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, the Philippines and Ukraine, apart from the United Kingdom and the United States, adds the report.
India remains the largest supplier on the back of "the large, highly educated English-speaking workforce and extensive offshoring of IT, BPO and software services to India.
The other occupational category where the share of labour supply from India increased was that of creative and multimedia services.