Women, technology and gig economy

Editor's Note

In Pakistan, the overall internet penetration is still below 40%, & the divide is even bigger from the gender lens according to a UNDP field report from 2022. There exists a digital divide in access to technology for women in Pakistan, however, emerging platforms are enabling women to take up gig work and use their time more effectively. Digital gig economy entails a labour market that creates seemingly flexible opportunities for people to earn income relying heavily on temporary and part-time positions filled by independent contractors and freelancers.  The flexibility of digital gig work allows women to engage in work opportunities that they are skilled at, such as online freelance writing opportunities or home-based businesses, and schedule their work according to their availability.
It is often assumed that the gig economy is particularly suited to women, as flexible ad-hoc work allows them to in fit paid activity around unpaid domestic or care work but significant trade-offs are involved. The digital gig economy in Pakistan is gendered and women face the same challenges that they face in the offline labour market but in this case, technology-enabled and exacerbated. Mobility issues faced by women are also no in the gig economy with women’s availability for work that require physical presence being restricted due to domestic demands. Additionally, internet shutdowns in Pakistan which have been increasing amidst the political turmoil pose a siginificant challenge to women who rely on the gig economy for subsistence. The internet shutdown in May 2023 which lasted for three-days had a severe impact on women gig workers among the myriad other challenges that they already face.
The experiences of women in gig work remain largely unresearched in Pakistan where the gig economy is still emerging. According to the Ministry of IT and Telecommunication (MoITT), freelancing brought foreign remittances worth US $397 million to Pakistan in FY 2022 and has the potential for more. With over 54 per cent of the total population online, as per the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA), the possibilities offered by integration with the digital gig marketplace are high. Considering the potential this has for the economy and women’s labour force participation, Digital 50.50 decided to shed light on the topic with our amazing contributors penning the voices of women who are part of the gig economy in Pakistan to share their success stories and obstacles.

We hope you’d enjoy the artworks and find the writings insightful.

With as much love as ever,

Maryam Saeed