Demand for freelance workers across the Middle East and North Africa region has surged over the past two years as technology continues to advance and employers become more adaptable to remote working, a survey by jobs portal Bayt.com has found.
About 87 per cent of freelance professionals said there had been an increase in demand for their services since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic and 78 per cent said they planned to do more freelance work in 2022, the survey said.
The study, conducted from January 18 to February 18, polled 1,764 people from 18 Mena countries, including the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt.
“The traditional expectations of Mena workplaces have transformed and many professionals are opting for change,” Ola Haddad, director of human resources at Bayt.com, said on Monday.
“Mena professionals are increasingly building flexible careers on their own terms, based on their passions, desired lifestyles and access to a much broader pool of opportunities than ever before.”
The jobs market in the UAE, the second-largest Arab economy, has recovered strongly from the pandemic-induced slowdown on the back of the government’s fiscal and monetary measures.
Last month, a survey by recruitment specialist Robert Half found that a large majority of white-collar workers in the UAE had held on to jobs in anticipation of New Year bonuses and pay rises and will continue to be “market curious” throughout the year.
“Companies which did not adequately reward their staff at the beginning of this year have potentially put themselves at risk of losing some of their best assets — and consequently, will find themselves in a bidding war for their own employees as the market continues to heat up,” Jason Grundy, managing director of Robert Walters Middle East and Africa, said at the time.
This echoes with the 'Great Resignation' trend, in which millions of workers around the world are resigning from their jobs to seek a more flexible work-life balance after working remotely during the pandemic.
Meanwhile, the Bayt survey found that 70 per cent of businesses in the Mena region plan to hire freelancers in 2022.
“As technology continues to advance, companies and businesses worldwide are quickly adapting to working online, ultimately attracting more remote talent,” the survey said.
Outsourcing work to freelancers has a number of benefits for companies, it said.
Forty-four per cent of respondents said freelancers are better at delivering within tight deadlines, 25 per cent believe they are good for contingency planning between hiring and 16 per cent said they provide extra help for small teams or departments, while 16 per cent said hiring freelancers is cost-effective.
Digital marketing is the fastest-growing sector for freelancers in 2022, followed by information technology, customer service, accounting, banking and finance, HR and recruiting, and graphic design.
About 88 per cent of employers are looking for freelancers with good time management skills, followed by an ability to communicate well (27 per cent), leadership qualities (9 per cent) and attention to detail (7 per cent).
Companies in many sectors are facing fast-moving challenges in the digital world and have to “scale quickly in a way they may have not done before”, which is why they are hiring freelancers, Bayt said.
“But freelancers are not without their own challenges, which include lack of job security, less pay than full-time jobs, lack of extra benefits and few chances of receiving a promotion,” the report said.