Pakistan's technology exports are continuing their growth trajectory, soaring 44% in the first 9 months (July-March) of the current fiscal year 2020-21 to reach $1.512 billion. March 2021 saw record exports of $3.2 billion with goods worth $2.612 billion and services worth $564 million exported during the month.
|Pakistan Exports July20-Mar21. Source: State Bank of Pakistan|
|Pakistan's Monthly IT Exports. Source: Pakistonomy|
Information technology development depends mostly on available talent. Pakistan has seen significant increase in technology manpower since the massive expansion of higher education initiated by Dr. Ata-ur-Rehman and backed by huge increase in funding provided by President Pervez Musharraf's government.
Higher education in Pakistan has come a long way since its independence in 1947 when there was only one university, the University of Punjab. By 1997, the number of universities had risen to 35, of which 3 were federally administered and 22 were under the provincial governments, with a combined enrollment of 71,819 students. A big spending boost by President Pervez Musharraf helped establish 51 new universities and degree awarding institutions during 2002-2008. This helped triple university enrollment from 135,000 in 2003 to about 400,000 in 2008, according to Dr. Ata ur Rehman who led the charge for expanding higher education during Musharraf years. There are 161 universities with 1.5 million students enrolled in Pakistan as of 2014. Pakistan now boasts 220 universities with 40,000 faculty members and 1.5 million students, according to Dr. Javaid Laghari, former chairman of Higher Education Commission of Pakistan.
Pakistan is now producing over 25,000 information technology graduates annually, according to the Punjab IT minister Mian Aslam Iqbal. He says Pakistan has more than 2,000 IT companies and call centers, and 300,000 English speaking IT professionals. Pakistan Software Export Board (PSEB) says there are 2,826 IT companies have registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) during this financial year alone. Dr. Umar Saif, ex chairman of the Punjab IT Board, has told the media that the Indian IT exports stood at $100 billion, which is 30 times Pakistan's which he believes are actually closer to $3.5 billion, near double the figure reported by the State Bank of Pakistan. “This is because the Indian IT industry employs over 4.5 million people as compared to Pakistan which has only 125,000 persons in this sector.”
Pakistan's digital gig economy has surged 69% during the COVID19 pandemic, putting the country among the world's top 4 hottest online freelancer markets, reports Payoneer, a global payments platform company based in Silicon Valley, in its latest report. Payoneer attributes it to government programs such as Punjab government's e Rozgaar program that has been offering free online courses in digital freelancing. The sudden rush to learn skills online boosted the demand for instructors. The Pakistan government filled this demand by hiring alumni of programs like e Rozgaar who were successfully participating in the gig economy.
|Punjab government's e-rozgaar program logo|
After a brief dip in January 2020, the demand for freelancers took off in February and increased by double digits each month starting in March until June when it surged 47% at the time the data was compiled by Payoneer for its report.“ Likewise, this response is reflected in the revenue figures where freelancing continued to grow year-on-year but temporarily slowing from 21 per cent growth in March to 16 per cent growth in May,” the report noted. e-Rozgaar’s latest group of graduates earned the highest ever income for a new class of the program--earning over Rs. 25 million in three months during the Covid-19 lockdown. PITB Chairman Azfar Manzoor told Profit magazine that e-Rozgaar was playing a pivotal role in curbing youth unemployment.
|Online Freelance Revenue Surge in Pakistan. Source: Payoneer|
“One factor that goes a long way to explain this is that in April, local government authorities took the initiative to rapidly shut down educational institutes as a way to contain the spread of the virus,” the report said, adding that this led to the development of a new online education system and as part of this initiative, government training programs, such as e-Rozgaar, expanded its services throughout the country, offering people a new way to enhance their professional capabilities. “The mission was to help expedite freelancing skills for thousands and enable them to earn a living in the most in-demand fields and ultimately lead to a higher employment rate,” the report highlighted.
A global survey conducted by Payoneer, shows that Pakistani women freelancers are earning $22 an hour, 10% more than the $20 an hour earned by men. While Pakistani male freelancers earnings are at par with global average, Pakistani female earnings are higher than the global average for freelancers. Digital gig economy is not only helping women earn more than men but it is also reducing barriers to women's labor force participation in the country. The survey also concludes that having a university degree does not help you earn more in the growing gig economy. The survey was conducted in 2015.
|Freelancers Hourly Rate by Gender. Source: Payoneer|
An average Pakistani freelancer working 34 hours a week at $20 an hour earns $34,000 a year, or Rs. 5.7 million a year, a small fortune for a young Pakistani. This is one of the upsides of the online global labor market for skilled young men and women in developing nations like Pakistan. Sometimes freelancing experience leads to tech startups in Pakistan.
Another interesting survey finding is that freelancers with a university degree earn about 10% less on average than those with just the high-school diploma. This indicates that the freelancers skills matter more than the level of formal education.
|Average Hourly Rate by Education. Source: Payoneer|
|Freelancers Average Work Week. Source: Payoneer|
Pakistani freelancers worked about 34 hours a week, a little less than the 36 hours global average. Indian freelancers log 37.4 hours a week and Bangladeshis 35.9 hours weekly. Freelancers from Kenya average the highest amount of hours per week (42.6) with Egypt coming in second (38.5). Professionals working in Morocco and Tunisia work the fewest hours per week, potentially as a high percentage of them are also working at companies as well
Pakistan's digital gig economy growth is the fastest in Asia and fourth fastest in the world, according to digital payments platform Payoneer.
|Gig Economy Growth in Q2/2019. Source: Payoneer|
The rapid gig economy expansion of 47% in Pakistan was fueled by several factors including the country's very young population 70% of which is under 30 years of age coupled with improvements in science and technical education and expansion of high-speed broadband access. Pakistani freelancers under the age of 35 generated 77% of the revenue in second quarter of 2019.
|Growth in Freelance Work. Source: Payoneer|
Mohsin Muzaffar, head of business development at Payoneer in Pakistan, has said as follows: "Government investment in enhancing digital skills has helped create a skilled freelancer workforce while blanket 4G coverage across Pakistan has given freelancers unprecedented access to
|Global Freelance Revenue By Age. Source: Payoneer.|
In Q2/2019, Asia cemented its status as a freelancer hub. Pakistan, Bangladesh and India, Philippines made it to the top 10 list, collectively recording 238% increase from Q2/2018.
|Online Labor Index. Source: Oxford Internet Institute|
Pakistan technology exports are on a rapid growth trajectory, thanks to the investment made in education during Musharraf years. Pakistan is now producing over 20,000 information technology graduates annually, according to the Punjab IT minister Mian Aslam Iqbal. He says Pakistan has more than 2,000 IT companies and call centers, and 300,000 English speaking IT professionals.
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