Thought Leaders: Creating the jobs of the future [Khaleej Times (United Arab Emirates)]
(Khaleej Times (United Arab Emirates) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Startups and freelancing are spreading opportunities in disadvantaged corners of the Middle East, Loulou Khazen Baz tells Michael Dickison
Thought Leaders: A four-day KT campaign highlights top businesspeople pushing to make a difference in society
Loulou Khazen Baz
In just 11 years, 75 per cent the world's workforce are forecast to be made up of Millennials, the generation born in the 1980s and early 90s.
And most of them won't want to spend their lives working for corporations — rejecting the economic status quo that has dominated the lives of former generations. The results, from Deloitte's Millennial Survey published earlier this year, suggests a possible future of sweeping changes in the way people work, or at least a strong desire for it.
"This is a trend people have to take very, very seriously. More and more people are getting fed up of working too long and working too hard," said Loulou Khazen Baz, the founder of Nabbesh.com and a winner of The Entrepreneur in 2012.
"We have a young population that's not going to be interested in working full-time in business for a long time. Eventually they're all going to want to try their own things."
The Deloitte survey said 70 per cent of Millennials might reject what business as traditionally organised had to offer, preferring to work independently by digital means in the long term. They also valued innovation and making positive contributions to society — and thought business could do much more to address resource scarcity, climate change and income equality, the survey said.
It may be a sensible move: 90 per cent of workers who have moved into independent freelancing work are happy in their new routines — far outstripping satisfaction levels reported in traditional corporate environments, a Freelancers Union survey said.
"And [businesses] can save a lot of money. You don't have an office, don't need to have the overhead, and people are happier," Khazen Baz said. "You're happier if you don't have to sit in traffic for an hour, and instead spend more time with the people you love. This isn't something in the future. It's happening today."
The trend toward decentralised work addresses many social concerns, reducing the pollution of commuting and creating economic opportunities beyond traditional hiring processes.
Khazen Baz gave an example: she needed an English-to-Arabic translator for a 300-word blog, so posted the job on Nabbesh.
Among many applicants was a woman from Gaza, who wanted to do the job for $5.
"I had to tell her, no, you can do better than that," Khazen Baz said. When the woman wouldn't budge, Khazen Baz suggested a rate of $50. "That's still cheap for me as a business in Dubai." The woman relented, and agreed to a $35 fee.
"This is why we're doing what we're doing, because we're getting someone all the way in Gaza to translate our blog.
"It's a win-win. A 300-word blog [translated] for $35, and she was able to get $35 — that's a lot of money where she is."
Khazen Baz said there was a lot of talent around the region, ready to be tapped by businesses. Recently, a Dubai company needed a high-skill game developer, and didn't think it would be able to find someone in the Middle East. After looking abroad and failing to find anyone, Khazen Baz convinced the company to try posting the job in the region.
Six people applied in the first 24 hours, and the firm hired someone in Lebanon to develop 52 games for them. "The [employer] called me and said, I'm so sorry I didn't believe you and the business."
The Middle East has an abundance of young people — looking for an independent working environment — and has strong mobile and Internet penetration, making it an ideal region for freelancing work.
Even people displaced or stranded in areas of political instability can find work online, and so can areas of economic hardship where traditional businesses rarely venture.
Particular segments of society stand to benefit. Retirees can contribute their expertise as it suited them. "Today, 65 is still young. People are jumping out of planes at 90," Khazen Baz said.
In addition, "there are educated women not able to go to an office" for cultural reasons, she said.
However, there remain a few hurdles and difficulties. The legal standing of freelance work in the UAE can be unclear, though freelance permits are available through some free zones, and freelancers can often set up as one-person businesses. Until best practice is found through trial and error and widely accepted, mediation is necessary in cases such as where employers don't honour payments to freelancers because the projects for which they had contributed fell through.
The core business of many companies is often better left in-house, and the online job marketplace has yet to reach the tipping point where activity is pervasive.
Nevertheless, in many areas of work — such as in tech, social media, graphic design, translation and content — companies can connect with new talent in as little as two hours, a sharp contrast to the traditional practice: collecting CVs, making calls and filing endless paperwork over weeks.
Entrusting projects to online contracts may be new for many companies — but there is little need to convince the new generation of workers or the demographics that have previously been left out of the world's economic opportunities.
"That's why I think online work is going to change the game ... I think freelancing is going to change the world."
(c) 2014 Khaleej Times. All Rights Reserved. Provided by SyndiGate Media Inc. (Syndigate.info).
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