58% of freelancers in PH, SE Asia markets have experienced not being paid

A new study has found that at least half of freelancers (58%) surveyed in four Southeast Asian markets have had experiences of not being paid for their work and services.

Photo credit: A Space Manila

This is one of the findings of PayPal’s “Global Freelancer Survey” which conducted an online survey of 1,602 freelancers from Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam, and the Philippines.

On average, nearly half of freelancers (48.5%) surveyed in these markets attributed payment issues to a prevailing attitude of not taking freelancers seriously.

“Southeast Asia is a key market given the region’s growing population and increasingly vibrant entrepreneurial economy. We are seeing more young people choosing to freelance as being your own boss offers more autonomy and flexibility than a nine-to-five job,” said Rahul Shinghal, managing director of PayPal Southeast Asia and head of merchant support for PayPal Asia Pacific.

“As they become integral to the global economy, it is critical for them to be accorded the same respect that other professionals receive. We should do more to elevate the standing of freelancers as a community and empower them in their autonomy.”

The study noted that digital payments platforms play a transformative role for freelancers in Southeast Asia as they are able to help tackle this perception issue through more secure and seamless payment methods for the community.

PayPal and bank transfers were found to be popular payment methods for freelancers in these markets, with 85% accepting PayPal payments and 79% accepting bank transfers.

PayPal was cited as the most widely accepted payment method in Singapore (76%), Indonesia (88%) and Philippines (92%), with the exception of Vietnam where more freelancers accepted a bank transfer (87%).

More significantly, digital payment platforms are also enabling a more seamless payment process, transcending fragmentations of the Southeast Asian market due to divisions in geography as well as within the financial services landscape of the region.

The study revealed a disparity in preferred payment methods among freelancers’ client base as international clients opt for PayPal as the preferred payment method, with an average of 76% of payments from international clients made via PayPal.

This is compared to an average of 30% of payments from international clients made via bank transfer. Bank transfers were found to be the preferred payment method among domestic clients.

Nearly half of freelancers surveyed use invoicing software to issue invoices and secure payment from both domestic and international customers.

In addition, more than 85% of freelancers surveyed preferred to withdraw funds via PayPal, citing ease and speed as key advantages of the platform, outperforming bank transfer and other online payment platforms.

Ease of withdrawal (40%) and a speedy payment process (36%) are however only secondary factors to security, which was highlighted by many (48%) as the top-most consideration in deciding their preferred payment method.

Job security and business sustainability is a primary concern for many freelancers in the region as an average of more than 40% of freelancers surveyed highlighted irregular income as a key issue.

More than 80% of freelancers in the four Southeast Asia markets have used a freelancer platform. The study found that freelancers with more international clients are more likely to use a freelancer platform than those with a domestic client focus.

Freelancers with a domestic client focus rely on other means of gaining new assignments. These include word-of-mouth (48% in Singapore), online job boards (49% in Indonesia) and social media networks (58% in Vietnam). The Philippines is ahead of the pack with 58% of the freelancer community receive work through freelancer platforms.

Freelancers surveyed, including non-platform users, highlighted the flexibility of these platforms and their ease of use as key advantages.

In Indonesia and Philippines, where the majority of the community use these platforms, the survey revealed that these platforms also enable freelancers to get their preferred type of work.

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