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With people struggling to find jobs and women at a far more significant disadvantage, freelancing creates opportunities for women in the digital economy. Therefore, freelancing is not only an economic development tool for the country but also an opportunity for the women of Pakistan to become financially independent and skilled workers in society. Moreover, in the digitally enabled world, online freelancing offers a significant opportunity with the potential to improve the livelihoods of the vulnerable population in developing countries by giving them access to portable and flexible employment opportunities.

Pakistan is ranked number 4 in the fastest-growing freelancing markets globally and has the potential to fetch around $5 billion of export remittances every year. Besides flexibility, the pandemic proved instrumental in increasing freelancing in Pakistan. Freelancing in Pakistan reportedly earned around $400 million in FY22 at a growth rate of 2.7 percent, with IT-related export earnings accounting for over 66 percent. This offers tremendous flexible and work-from-home opportunities in Pakistan, where female labor force participation remains due to gender discrimination, social biases, and cultural restraints. Whereas the rise of freelancing has opened doors for women who want to work from home; take small assignments, pick relevant skill jobs; carry out temporary contracts, etc., in fields led by IT, social media, marketing, writing, and design.

As per the Payoneer's Global Gig Economy Index, the number of freelancers under 35 is above the global average; interestingly, female freelancers in Pakistan are earning 10 percent more than men as per the worldwide average, which shows the growth and potential for women in the gig economy.

A key benefit of freelancing is also the financial inclusion and documentation of the economy of the otherwise excluded population. Payments to freelancers pave the way for the financially excluded to enter the formal channels. Talking to BR Research, Dua Sukhera, who has been a freelancer since 2015 and a top-rated seller at Fiver and is also the CEO and Director at the International Institute of Entrepreneurship, highlighted how international payment mechanism had been one of the hurdles for many, especially women.

She also pointed out how the collaboration between Payoneer and JazzCash is a gamechanger for this industry and facilitated rural women in areas like South Punjab, where account opening is still an arduous task for them. She told BR Research that the collaboration between JazzCash and Payoneer, a disruption, facilitates the freelancers she works with by enabling them to directly create or link their new or existing Payoneer account from the JazzCash application to receive funds. Pakistan’s leading Fintech with over 16 million monthly active consumers, 119,000 active agents and over 1.7 billion transactions in the past year, JazzCash offers a broad portfolio of branchless banking services for customers, including travel, ticketing, entertainment, money transfer, bill payments, debit card, insurance, savings, and payments for a wide variety of services.

Women constitute a significant part of the workforce, and efforts to increase financial inclusion and economic empowerment are vital for their labor force participation. Out of JazzCash’s 17 million monthly active users, 27 percent are women, and the company has an ambition to increase this to 50 percent, over the next years. Additionally, JazzCash has a vast agent network spread throughout cities, towns, and rural localities; currently, the platform has close to 125,000 active agents in the country.

Facilitation on the digital payment side, such as the collaboration between JazzCash and Payoneer, is just one partnership. Banks must take freelancing and the gig economy as a profession, especially when freelancing offers immense opportunities that can help many women contribute to the country's economic development.

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