Business

Microwork promises jobs for Jamaicans

BY CAMILO THAME Business Co-ordinator thamec@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, May 09, 2012    

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MICROWORK, via the Internet, could provide thousands of jobs to unemployed youth and women in Jamaica.

Digital Jam 2.0 — a joint Government and World Bank initiative aimed at promoting Web ICT (information and communication technology) opportunities — will support pilot projects employing up to 2,000 youths, said Giorgio Valentini, the World Bank's country representative for Jamaica and Guyana.

“The Government of Jamaica is keen on consolidating this model by linking it to existing ICT skills development programmes for youths and ensure better linkages to the labour market,” he said.

Microwork is a series of small tasks that have been broken out of a larger project, relating to activities such as market research, data input, data verification, copywriting, graphic design, and even software development.

Digital Jam 2.0 aims to leverage these skills.

There has been rapid growth in the number of Microwork aggregators — such as Amazon Mechanical Turk, ShortTask, TxtEagle and Clickworker — and microworkers from various parts of the world.

The median annual income of Microworkers at Amazon Mechanical Turk overall is between US$15,000 ($1.3 million) and US$25,000 - below US$10,000 for Indian microworkers, and between US$25,000 and US$40,000 for US microworkers.

To participate in microwork, users require basic skills, and a computer with Internet or mobile phone access.

Somali refugees in Kenya, for example, were able to earn money as microworkers after SamaSource, a non-profit aggregator, provided them with training and access to facilities, even though they had never seen a computer before.

A market study has also estimated that over one million workers have earned US$1 billion to US$2 billion via microwork in the past 10 years worldwide and the market could be worth several billion dollars within the next five years.

Valentini sees this as an outlet for the high numbers of unemployed youth in Jamaica.

“Unemployment in Jamaica affects a large number of youth in all socio-economic segments of the population — from low skilled and unattached to those with secondary and tertiary education,” he said. “Youth unemployment rate in 2009 stood at 27.3 per cent, more than twice the overall rate of 10.6 per cent, with young women faring even worse.”

The World Bank's director of sustainable development, Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez, told the Jamaica Observer that engagement of the youth population now is necessary for growth later.

“If a large segment of the population doesn't have good education or skills, the diversification you will need for future growth will not be enough because you are relying on too few sectors,” he said.

“For the next generation, if you don't have that balance, then when they are needed to be productive they won't be able to.”

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