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Economists contradict BBS claim on 'job-rich growth'

They say impressive GDP figure belied by fewer quality employment creation

March 25, 2018 00:00:00

FHM Humayan Kabir

Despite having higher economic growth, Bangladesh couldn't create requisite job opportunities, thereby putting the country's sustainable growth potential at risk, economists said.

They said a higher number of unemployed people (0.1 million), as the latest Labour Force Survey (LFS) 2018 shows, is a piece of bad news for the country.

They also raised question on the data of the latest LFS as there are some "inconsistencies" in the calculations.

Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) in its survey 2018 showed that Bangladesh's unemployed people were 2.7 million in the financial year (FY) 2016-17, and termed the economic growth job-rich.

The number of jobless in the previous survey period in FY2015-16 was 2.6 million, its report said.

Economist Dr Mirza Azizul Islam, rather, termed the current economic growth "job-less".

He told the FE that since Bangladesh could create only 1.3 million fresh jobs against the entry of nearly 2.0 million into the labour force, the employment rate is still very low.

"When the economy is growing at a 7.28 per cent rate, the number of unemployed people has increased by 0.1 million. So,

should it not be termed the GDP growth a jobless one?" he asked.

"When an economy expands at an impressive rate, its 'unemployment per unit of total GDP' usually decreases. For example, if Tk100 creates five units of jobs in a year, the same money will create less (3-4 unit of jobs) employment after 2-3 years. So, Bangladesh's per-unit job creation compared to the GDP is very inadequate," said Dr Islam, a former finance adviser of caretaker government, in an arithmetical illustration of the data furnished in the latest labour-force survey or LFS.

World Bank Lead Economist Dr Zahid Hussain also sees the data in the LFS 2018 as inconsistent. "The survey is saying that 1.3 million fresh jobs and 1.0 million overseas jobs were created in the last FY 2017. Besides, 0.1 million more people were unemployed than the previous year. So, 2.4 million people should be employment-capable persons. On the other hand, some 2.0 million labour forces are added a year to the economy. So, what is the status of the 0.4 million additional people reflected in the LFS report," he said.

"In addition, the BBS survey showed that 1.8 million more people have been added in the last FY2017 as the 'Not in Labour Force' category. So, what is the status of the 1.8 million people not clarified in the LFS 2018 report?" Dr Hussain further questioned.

He said Bangladesh failed to create "adequate quality jobs" as the number of employments in the industrial sector has not increased compared to the impressive gross domestic product (GDP) growth in the manufacturing sector.

"So, year on year, adequate quality jobs are not being generated in the economy," the World Bank economist added.

Dr Hussain said it would be difficult to sustain Bangladesh's higher GDP growth and alleviation of poverty and cut the inequality with the low-quality jobs.

According to the LFS 2018, some 1.3 million fresh jobs have been created over the year while another 1.4 million people have shifted to the 'paid-works' from their 'unpaid' jobs in the previous times.

Bangladesh's total jobs created in the FY2016 stood at 2.6 million, the survey said.

The BBS claimed that since some 3.7 million jobs including 1.0 million overseas ones in the last FY2017 were created, the country's economic growth could be branded as 'job-rich growth'.

The government's statistical bureau in its survey showed the job-growth rate in the industrial and agriculture sectors dropped while that in the service sector got a boost.

According to the survey findings, the employment in the service sector has expanded by 7.8 per cent.

However, the employment rate in the industrial sector dropped by 0.48 per cent in the last FY2017 compared to the previous survey period of FY2016, and in the agriculture sector, fell 4.9 per cent.

The BBS LFS2018 said Bangladesh's unemployment rate remained static at only 4.2 per cent.

According to the last LFS, the country's unemployment rate in the previous financial year (FY), 2015-16, was also the same 4.2 per cent.

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