Young people are as innovative and ambitious as ever. The advent of the Internet and social media has propelled progress and information sharing to previously unforeseen levels. Autonomous high school, college and university students are striving to achieve independence much faster and earlier than previous generations.
Students living in the vast urban jungles of Dhaka and Chattogram are increasingly taking advantage of opportunities for freelance work, volunteering and side hustle to expand their repertoire. However, there seems to be an intense and deep-rooted stigma of working as a student, especially in the retail, food and ride-sharing sectors.
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In the United States, young adults are encouraged to take part-time jobs alongside their studies. More importantly, there are no negative connotations associated with odd jobs. In Bangladesh, working as a tutor seems acceptable.
However, being a freelance writer, barista, or rideshare driver brings criticism and judgment. There seems to be an even bigger problem when people from wealthy families opt for these jobs.
The irony is that students who go abroad and choose to work are seen as responsible and brave to accept odd jobs. So why are people back home being maligned for doing the same thing?
A twisted narrative makes people believe that their children working part-time jobs would distort their social image and status. Many parents believe that their children working part-time reflect their inability to support their families. This, in turn, leads to an irrational fear of how their parents and friends would view them negatively upon learning about their children’s work.
These issues extend beyond family and friends – baristas, servers and retail workers are unfairly held in low regard and subjected to derogatory behavior. Rideshare drivers and delivery staff are also abused, and middle-aged aunts will even consider them “failures” for not getting a “good” job traditionally.
Women face even more barriers when entering the gig economy. Many are eager to earn money by delivering and driving, but are prevented from doing so due to religious and societal obstacles. While safety concerns about driving are valid, the low participation of women is a worrying reflection of how our society still manages to retain its patriarchal position.
Rather than rejecting these jobs so quickly, we should learn to be more grateful and respectful, regardless of salary, nature of work, or title. After all, education involves more than just academics. Professional experiences will undoubtedly help teenagers enrich their knowledge and skills, teach them independence and prepare them for long-term professional life.
It turns out that Taaseen Mohammed Islam can write semi-decently at the cost of being able to do basic math. Send him pointers to email@example.com