FE Today Logo
Search date: 03-07-2019 Return to current date: Click here

Tapping demographic dividend sans youth difficult: SANEM

Call for youth-focused budget

FE Report | July 03, 2019 00:00:00

Deputy Minister for Education Mohibul Hassan Chowdhury speaking as the chief guest at the national dialogue on Realising the Demographic Dividend: Investment on Young People at BRAC INN in the city on Tuesday — FE Photo

Bangladesh might miss an opportunity to reap the benefits of its high demographic dividend as the youth gets little from fiscal budgets, revealed a report.

According to the South Asian Network on Economic Modelling (SANEM) report, 22 ministries and divisions are working for the youth, but only 9.0 per cent has a direct bearing on them.

It said 34 per cent work has an indirect impact on the target group while 57 per cent is not youth-focused.

SANEM shared its findings at a national dialogue styled 'Realising demographic dividend through investing on young people: reflection on national budget 2019-2020'.

SANEM and ActionAid Bangladesh co-hosted the event where the deputy minister for education, Mohibul Hassan Chowdhury, was present as the chief guest.

Presenting the report, SANEM research director Dr Sayema Haque Bidisha said Bangladesh is in the middle of its demographic dividend, which will end in 2035-40.

The window of opportunity to harness this dividend is very narrow, she added.

In the job market, Ms Bidisha said, the utilisation of this dividend depends on the proper matching of demand and supply of the labour force.

Overall unemployment rate here is 4.0 per cent, but youth unemployment rate is 10.6 per cent and youth NEET (not in education, employment or training) 29.8 per cent, she disclosed.

"This means there is a massive challenge in utilising the demographic dividend," Ms Bidisha observed.

SANEM executive director Dr Selim Raihan said the ADP (annual development programme) implementation rate on health and education is very low, which gives serious cause for concern.

Market solutions are not enough for basic sectors such as health and education, he uttered.

These sectors may not receive due importance if the country only depends on market solutions. So, the government needs to invest in these sectors heavily.

"We should come out of the traditional budgetary practice. Are we really getting the priorities right?" Mr Raihan questioned.

At the event, Mr Chowdhury highlighted the necessity for rural employment. The government's motto is thus 'Villages will become cities'.

Budgetary allocation has been diverse this time, he cited. "…there are some political reality, which cannot be ignored while implementing a budget."

Mentioning a 100-year Delta Plan, he said it includes demographic dividend, rightly focusing on the increasing elderly population and ways to handle them.

About recent criticism on hiring overseas teachers, the minister said the government has no plan to hire foreign teachers at tertiary level.

"We want to train up our teachers abroad to better equip them to handle the needs of students," he added.

Prof Shamsul Alam said the upcoming eighth FYP (five-year plan) targets utilisation of demographic dividend through creating jobs, tackling the challenge of the fourth industrial revolution.

"It'll be action-packed and the first FYP of the Vision 2041. It'll be the first launch pad," added the member of general economics division at planning ministry.

Regarding job creation, the key government planner laid emphasis on the private sector that accounts for 77 per cent of the country's total investment.

"The government alone can't do it. Industry-university collaboration is vital to foster research which is commonplace in foreign countries," Prof Alam stated.

Citing the report, ActionAid country director Farah Kabir said it is unfortunate that the government's youth development activities have only 9.0-per cent direct impact on them.

"Can we call it a youth-centric budget?" she asked.

Prof Moinul Islam, chairman of population sciences department at Dhaka University, said a drop in fertility and mortality rates has given Bangladesh a demographic dividend.

"We need to focus on good governance in order to realise this dividend. We won't be able to utilise it without good governance," he observed.

[email protected]

Share if you like