How freelancing is reshaping post-pandemic Middle East’s world of work

Since the COVID-19 epidemic changed the standards of working life practically overnight, the movement toward flexible contracts, self-employment, and telecommuting has gained traction in a variety of industries.

Many ascribe this shift away from the traditional 9 to 5 paradigm, as well as the sharp drop in office attendance, to a general desire for greater autonomy, geographical mobility, and, most importantly, a better work-life balance.

Employees are hesitant to return to previous modes of working after two years of social alienation, leading businesses to adopt new, fully remote or hybrid models that need staff to come in person only part of the week.

Simultaneously, the pandemic has increased cross-border recruiting, providing recruiters with access to a far broader pool of high-quality talent while also producing a ready supply of freelancers and a subset of the workforce known as digital nomads.

This transformation was aided by the extensive use of online video communication services, which allowed face-to-face meetings to continue during lockdowns and travel bans and have remained popular ever since.

While it is difficult to correctly estimate the number of this new workforce, industry surveys predict that there may be as many as 1.56 billion freelancers globally, representing a $1.5 trillion global market with a cumulative annual growth rate (CAGR) of 15%.

In the Middle East, the trend is similar, with multinational firms recruiting competent workers in the region and Middle Eastern enterprises hiring remote workers outside.

A survey of 1,764 persons in more than 20 countries across the Middle East and North Africa was conducted by the recruitment website Bayt in 2022. It discovered that 70% of MENA businesses wanted to hire freelancers and 78% of workers planned to perform more freelancing in 2022.

According to the report, the fastest-growing industries for freelancers are digital marketing (37%), and information technology (33%). (20 percent).

To assist risk-taking newcomers, regional governments and private enterprises have made initiatives to make freelancing both a viable career option for professionals and an appealing resource for employers.

Freelancing, according to Najlaa Yousef Safdar, digital development manager at Nafisa Shams, a department of the humanitarian organisation Community Jameel Saudi, is a financially realistic option for those who desire to pursue other professional ambitions.

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