Tasmia Jahan was raised by her divorced mother and widowed grandmother. While they managed to scrape by and afford her education till HSC exams, they would not afford to send her to university.
And so they decided to marry her off.
Tasmia however decided she would not give in to the age-old ritual of marrying the daughters off to ease the family's economic burdens. She was a girl born and raised in Dhaka and knew the city afforded her enough opportunity to make a living, provided she looked hard enough.
Tasmia first found a part-time job at a travel agency where she worked as a customer care agent. She was paid a paltryTk5,500, however it was enough to cover her expenses to study social work at the Eden Mohila College.
It's been three years since she joined the gig economy – the temporary, flexible job market where independent contractors and freelancers work for companies on a contractual basis. As the economy shifts away from the traditional concept of full-time employees, the gig economy has become a new way to engage a large part of the workforce – especially the students in the job market.
Three years on, Tasmia now works as a receptionist at a bank. Not only is she continuing with her education, but during some months she has enough money left over to support her mother and grandmother in running the family.
Like Tasmia, many students are now doing part-time jobs in different industries including superstores, restaurants and NGO projects, while others are freelancing in the e-commerce industry.
Gaining valuable experience and skill
The gig economy allows students to gather some necessary experience before having a full-time job.
Imran Hossain, a second-year BBA student of AKM Rahmatullah University College, is working at Shwapno Super Shop as a salesman and is on his career track of choice.
"I am planning on building my career in the merchandising department. This salesman job is helping me to understand the sale of goods and its chain. I am gaining experience that I am going to use in the future," said Imran.
Along with experience and money, students are also learning some skills at these part-time jobs like: communication, leadership, computer expertise, etc.
Delwar Hossain has been working at Herfy Restaurant in Gulshan 1, Dhaka, for the last few months. He said the job helps him understand customers' psychology, service systems plus policies and procedures. He is hopeful he will use the experience to find his niche in the near future.
The business entities are also benefiting from the gig economy.
"A student will work anyway for Tk6,000 whether it is for money, practical knowledge or an experience certificate – but a graduate student is not going to do so," said Faruqul Alam, executive manager of Agora's Moghbazar branch.
Some students are taking part-time jobs, the salary range of which is between Tk7,000-21,000, to build up the capital for their own enterprises.
Sajid Amit, associate professor of the Center for Enterprise and Society (CES), said, "Our formal job sector has not been able to create enough jobs for students. Every year we offer 80,000 jobs for 2.5 lakh graduates. So, we need to appreciate part-time jobs and entrepreneurship, which are certainly going to help students."
Gig economy as a lifestyle
Statistics from ride-sharing app Pathao reveal that around 37 percent of service providers on their supply-side are students.
In the gig economy, freelancing is creating a hype among the youth. More and more youths are growing interested in learning graphic design, web and software development, digital marketing and 3D animation and visualisation.
Our freelancers are working on both local and international markets. Therefore, they are contributing to our remittances as well.
A separate consumer market has also emerged that depends on this portion of youth. These young consumers are buying electronic devices, outfits, cosmetics and other products.
"Five years ago, when I first came to Dhaka, I had a feature phone. Now, I upgrade my phone every year," said Manik Bagha, an MBA student and a part-time job holder.
"Consumerism encourages investment. When consumerism plays a bigger role, the economy becomes less reliant on foreign relations and foreign trade. So, at this point, growing a consumer market is a positive and healthy sign for Bangladesh," said Sajid Amit, associate professor of Center for Enterprise and Society (CES).
Impact on women empowerment
The participation of female students in this part-time job sector is also quite evident, empowering our society and economy as a consequence.
Dr Susmita Chakrabarti, professor of Department of Folklore, Rajshahi University, said, "The changes that we are observing is an impact of globalisation. Now, within a minute, we get to know that Barack Obama's daughter is working in a restaurant. So, our girls think – 'If she can do this then why not me?!'"
"Their participation is ensuring rights and giving them a platform to raise their voices to make decisions at home, in the workplace and in society. The more girls participate in the workplace, the more our economy will flourish. Yet, their safety needs to be assured," she added.