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Unemployment still a key challenge

Shahiduzzaman Khan | March 26, 2020 00:00:00

The country has failed to create adequate jobs, especially for the rising young population, despite higher economic growth in recent years. The job market is rather shrinking as capital-intensive industries are taking over the places of labour-intensive industries.

The latest survey of the Bangladesh government has found 2.6 million unemployed people in the country. The unemployment rate has slightly changed -- from 4.3 per cent in 2013 to 4.2 per cent last year -- though the government created substantial job opportunities during the period.

The rural areas have 1.82 million unemployed people, more than double the number of those 0.77 million, in urban areas, according to the latest Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) labour force survey. The urban-rural population ratio is 30:70 in Bangladesh.

Analysts observe that the unemployed population should be higher than what was shown in the survey. Unlike many western economies where people get state benefits for periods of unemployment, people in Bangladesh are not entitled to such benefits or social security supports.

Although Bangladesh's private sector creates more employment opportunities than the public sector, private investment as percentage of gross domestic product has remained stalled for quite some time -- a stagnation which is a major reason for high unemployment rate.

More than 50 per cent of the population is young in Bangladesh against 20-25 per cent in Europe. The future driver of opportunities is the young population that the country is blessed with. So, all stakeholders have to take their share of responsibility to give them the right sense of direction.

The universities and other educational institutions, for instance, need to teach high-tech science and digital media as their demand is increasing globally. The people should be digitally educated with the help of top class teachers and increasing internet accessibility.

Also, there is a need for raising number of women as workforce in the formal sector. This is required because diversity leads to better decisions and Bangladesh women have proved their potential as entrepreneurs, white collar job holders and workers. It has been seen that shareholders' return in women-led businesses is higher than in men-led business. Investing in women is sure to benefit the economy.

Meanwhile, the country's garment sector is facing shortage of skilled manpower. Skilled technical experts are being hired from abroad. The right kind of skills is seldom available to capitalise on the country's potential, despite having a young and vibrant population.

The labour-intensive manufacturing industries need to play a vital role in developing the country in the next few years. Two million new faces are joining the workforce every year. But there is a huge gap between skills produced by educational institutions and the demand of industries.

There is shortage of fashion designers, technicians, dyeing specialists, washing and finishing experts and industrial technologists. The skill gap in mid-management positions is also significant in terms of communications and managerial skills.

It is envisaged that there would be major changes in the nature of jobs in the next 20-30 years. The need of the hour is to bring changes to the education system in the light of prospective changes in the future industries.

The country's large youth population has to be equipped with right set of skills to make them employable in the fast-changing job market. Preparing the youth is crucial for the economy as some jobs are disappearing while new opportunities are opening up.

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