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.
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.