Digital migrants

The advantages for Nepalis of working abroad by staying at home


Nepal has plenty of programmers well-versed in every coding language, designers experienced in creating logos and websites, project managers who can execute tasks on time, data experts and analysts who are able to help IT startups successfully service their clients and grow their business. 

Where did these talented Nepali minds mushroom from? Digital education, online training, web exposure and IT colleges, for starters. They all work from home, using a reliable laptop and an Internet connection to earn in dollars and euros.

By freelancing online, young Nepali professionals have been using their digital skills to earn more than the monthly salary in a full-time office-based job. While the perks and benefits of employment at a company, public or private, are not negligible, working projects with open hours for clients based abroad provides good earnings. With freelance portal sites like Upwork, Fiverr and Freelancer that help clients find talent worldwide, sealing a freelance deal is easier than ever. 

The aggregator website plays a big role in keeping such transactions fair, professional and visible. Clients can browse freelancers’ portfolios, applicants can offer quotations and bid for a project in a systematic fashion, and the work can be assigned, tracked and delivered throughout to increase accountability and ensure productivity. 

PayPal, Payoneer, Western Union and direct wire transfers to bank accounts are all valid payment methods that help Nepalis receive international payments while sitting at their work desk at home. The more efficient and talented the professional, the higher the number of projects per month, therefore the higher the income. 

The opportunities seem endless, given the working professionals’ willingness to forego sleep, their social lives and a desire to lead an active lifestyle (considering that this kind of job usually warrants long hours of sitting in front of a computer screen).

But what about those who enjoy the stability of a salaried job, working face-to-face with a supervisor who leads the project, and the security of a reputed company as an employer? 

Well, in this digital age, there is a solution to everything online. Companies based in Australia, South Africa, North America and the UK would much rather hire professionals working remotely from Nepal than their own country, given the lower pay scales and hard-working habits that come with the region.

Website developers, graphic designers, SEO experts, data entry officers, UX/UI designers, content writers, social media managers, legal advisers and financial consultants are all able to find employment with companies that are more than happy to not pay for expensive commutes, provide lunch cafeterias or invest in quality office furniture for their cloud-based outsourced employees. 

A home loan business based in New South Wales, a truckers’ insurance firm in San Francisco and an animation company in California have all found talented professionals at affordable rates in Nepal, and hired them after doing several rounds of background checks, without ever meeting these candidates in person. 

The HR executive making the hires, too, may be a third country national, and none of it is of concern, as long as they have been properly trained to keep things professional, complete with an accent to match.

What is the bad news here, you may ask. Well, digital migration causes as much of a brain drain as old-school migration. Without even issuing passports, landing work visas or buying expensive flight tickets, droves of young, smart and capable Nepalis are able to get employed abroad and escape joining local businesses and industries. 

This means that Nepal-based animation houses, website development companies and digital marketing agencies do not have access to the workforce that is foreign-employed. For all we know, the best digital skill professionals in Nepal could already be under the wing of some cloud-based company that works as the middleman between businesses scaling up and data-computing digital workers.

On a personal level, taking on such online jobs can be taxing for an individual if the working hours are odd or keeping to a different time zone. Reporting to work at 5AM to match Australian hours is still possible, but clocking in at 8PM and working through the night for a US customer is a challenge not everybody can rise to. 

Quite literally, the body clock goes haywire, affecting the digestive system, menstrual cycle and mood for many people who struggle to also balance their domestic lives with such contrasting office hours. Maintaining marital relationships and sharing parenting responsibilities can be tough with work hours that are the opposite of a regular 9-5. 

The way remittance earnings have shouldered Nepal’s economy, online jobs could be the way forward. People can help ease their family’s financial troubles, save up to invest in assets like vehicles and property, and put their children through private schools. 

With lower pay grades, difficult bosses, office politics and potential discrimination (based on gender, caste or ethnicity) all being factors that may come into play with working a physical job with a local organisation in Nepal, there is every reason to explore online work opportunities.

Working with international teams allows new and exciting data management software, project management systems and dynamic co-workers that make work life smooth and ideal. 

Why give up all that for the idea that talent must directly contribute to a local industry or Nepal-born business startup? The argument is strong, and this is only just the start to a decades-long debate on the digital-driven movement of opening up to global markets spearheaded by the Internet.

Saniaa Shah runs Studio Aakar, a film production studio. Her marketing career helped her develop a keen interest in tech and digital culture.

Saniaa Shah


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