The Job Hunt

In Bangladesh, ap­prox­i­mately 2.7 mil­lion young people en­ter the job mar­ket ev­ery year. Out of them, only 0.7 mil­lion are able to find work.

Southasia - - CONTENTS - By Sam­ina Wahid The writer is a free­lance jour­nal­ist who con­trib­utes reg­u­larly to var­i­ous leading pub­li­ca­tions.

Ap­prox­i­mately 2.7 mil­lion young Bangladeshis en­ter the job mar­ket ev­ery year. Out of them,

only 0.7 mil­lion are able to find work.

Bangladesh may be a small coun­try but it suf­fers from a wide range of se­ri­ous prob­lems, one of them be­ing the ris­ing un­em­ploy­ment rate. Ac­cord­ing to a re­cent sur­vey, around 47 per­cent of Bangladesh’s ed­u­cated youth are job­less, an even­tu­al­ity fore­told by the In­ter­na­tional Labour Or­ga­ni­za­tion (ILO) in 2012.

Back then, the ILO had warned Bangladesh that with a 3.7 per­cent rate of un­em­ploy­ment, it ranked 12th among the top 20 coun­tries where job­less­ness was ris­ing steadily. To­day, the sit­u­a­tion has wors­ened to alarm­ing pro­por­tions. Bangladesh now stands sec­ond to Afghanistan as far as un­em­ploy­ment is con­cerned and the ILO pre­dicts that at this rate, un­em­ploy­ment could soar to 60 mil­lion by 2015.

While un­em­ploy­ment has been a long­stand­ing prob­lem in Bangladesh, it must be ad­dressed and dealt with on a long-term ba­sis. Re­ports in­di­cate that some 2.7 mil­lion young people en­ter the job mar­ket ev­ery year but out of them only 0.7 mil­lion are able to find work. The num­ber of the ‘dis­guised

un­em­ployed’– an eco­nomic term used to de­note un­der­em­ployed people or those em­ployed to a de­gree less than their po­ten­tial – is about 32 per­cent.

These alarm­ing fig­ures are in­dica­tive of an un­der­ly­ing prob­lem that there are many ‘par­a­sites’ – for lack of a bet­ter word – within the pop­u­la­tion. Em­ployed in­di­vid­u­als make a valu­able con­tri­bu­tion to the econ­omy via pro­duc­tive ac­tiv­i­ties while con­sum­ing from it at the same time. Un­em­ployed people, on the other hand, only live off the econ­omy or their fam­i­lies and so­ci­ety. They are an ab­so­lute bur­den on the state. In ad­di­tion to be­ing a li­a­bil­ity in the eco­nomic sense, they are con­sid­ered a source of ten­sion and tur­moil po­lit­i­cally and so­cially. The link be­tween un­em­ploy­ment and crime is also ob­vi­ous.

It is im­per­a­tive there­fore that the Bangladeshi govern­ment ad­dresses the un­em­ploy­ment is­sue be­fore it takes a turn for the worse. The lack of proper in­vest­ment has made a se­ri­ous dent in the job mar­ket in Bangladesh. It is here that the govern­ment needs to step in and iden­tify the fac­tors re­spon­si­ble so that the over­all in­vest­ment cli­mate can im­prove. Ideally, this should in­clude in­fra­struc­ture de­vel­op­ment and pro­vi­sion of re­sources so that po­ten­tial in­vestors are at­tracted. It is also im­por­tant to take stock of the en­ergy cri­sis and pro­vide sus­tain­able, long-term so­lu­tions so that the con­fi­dence of in­vestors in­creases. Long-term po­lit­i­cal sta­bil­ity must be the pri­or­ity of the govern­ment.

Some other im­per­a­tives would be low­er­ing of the in­ter­est rate on bor­row­ings, upgra­da­tion of the ex­ist­ing in­fra­struc­tures to make it sup­port­ive of en­ter­pris­ing ven­tures, fis­cal poli­cies that cre­ate a level play­ing field for lo­cal en­trepreneurs against for­eign com­peti­tors and fis­cal in­cen­tives such as tax re­duc­tion and tax ex­emp­tion, etc. The govern­ment must take into ac­count these fac­tors so that eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity in the coun­try can pick up. There is also a need for clar­ity in poli­cies be­ing pur­sued to cre­ate em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties.

New en­ter­prises may have the ca­pac­ity to ab­sorb the un­em­ployed, but cap­i­tal-in­ten­sive en­ter­prises will em­ploy a smaller num­ber of work­ers than la­bor-in­ten­sive ones which will un­der­stand­ably em­ploy a greater num­ber of work­ers. Thus, there is also a need for en­ter­prises with a la­bor­in­ten­sive char­ac­ter to be iden­ti­fied and en­cour­aged.

The govern­ment can also re­duce un­em­ploy­ment by es­tab­lish­ing vo­ca­tional train­ing in­sti­tu­tions to train those who are un­em­ployed. This will help them take up jobs to sus­tain them­selves till the time they are able to find work more suited to their needs. The re­spon­si­bil­ity of set­ting up such in­sti­tu­tions lies solely with the govern­ment be­cause the pri­vate sec­tor has, to date, not shown any in­ter­est in it.

In this re­gard, the govern­ment’s role as a skill trainer is very im­por­tant. Fur­ther­more, re­turns on this in­vest­ment will be vis­i­ble once the un­em­ployed people in ques­tion find steady jobs through which they can pay off their govern­ment loans (that they would re­ceive at the time of train­ing).

Some of these projects are al­ready op­er­a­tional, their ob­jec­tive be­ing to cre­ate em­ploy­ment by train­ing and en­cour­ag­ing small busi­ness own­ers and en­trepreneurs. For ex­am­ple, there is the Youth Train­ing Pro­gram that aims at cre­at­ing a skilled work­force in the coun­try.

Sim­i­larly, the women de­vel­op­ment min­istry has train­ing cen­ters for women to en­cour­age self-em­ploy­ment while the Bangladesh Bureau of Man­power, Em­ploy­ment and Train­ing (BMET) is try­ing to pro­vide jobs to all those who want to work out­side Bangladesh.

These projects are the re­sult of the vi­sion of the Min­istry of La­bor and Em­ploy­ment that aims at re­duc­ing poverty through em­ploy­ment and hu­man re­source de­vel­op­ment by main­tain­ing cor­dial in­dus­trial re­la­tions and con­nec­tions be­tween work­ers and em­ploy­ers.

Its goal is to cre­ate em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties, gen­er­ate semi-skilled and skilled man­power and en­hance pro­duc­tiv­ity in fac­to­ries by cre­at­ing a friendly en­vi­ron­ment be­tween work­ers and em­ploy­ers. Along­side, are the min­istry’s claims about en­sur­ing wel­fare of work­ers in dif­fer­ent in­dus­trial ar­eas while im­ple­ment­ing la­bor laws and the en­force­ment of min­i­mum wage.

While these projects may look good on paper, they have not been able to pro­duce the de­sired re­sults. The govern­ment needs to go the ex­tra mile by tak­ing up more such en­deav­ors and solv­ing prob­lems that cause un­em­ploy­ment rather than ap­ply­ing cos­metic mea­sures and pro­vid­ing tem­po­rary fixes.

The fact is that ris­ing un­em­ploy­ment is greatly dam­ag­ing the econ­omy and so­ci­ety it­self be­cause the un­em­ployed youth can eas­ily fall prey to drugs and vi­o­lence. How­ever, they can prove to be a use­ful as­set if they are trained in ac­cor­dance with the re­quire­ments of the job mar­ket, both in and out­side Bangladesh.

The coun­try’s pol­i­cy­mak­ers must de­vise strate­gies to gain max­i­mum ben­e­fit from the bur­geon­ing youth pop­u­la­tion. This means a fun­da­men­tal shift in ed­u­ca­tional con­tent and en­rol­ment pat­terns. The over­ar­ch­ing need is to make crit­i­cal in­vest­ments in ed­u­ca­tion, re­search, tech­nol­ogy and de­vel­op­ment with ad­e­quate pol­icy sup­port for as­sured job cre­ation.

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