Bangladesh must invest in skills training to reap the benefits of its demographic dividend
Youth unemployment is a difficult obstacle for Bangladesh to overcome, but if the country can imbue skills into young, working-age people in order to make them ready for the global job market, the problem can be solved through overseas employment, experts have said.
The United Nations recognizes the increase of youth unemployment as one of the major problems of developed and developing countries. According to their estimates, 475 million new jobs need to be created over the next decade in order to employ the 73 million youth currently unemployed, as well as the 40 million new annual entrants to the labour market around the world, reports UNB.
The Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS), in its “Bangladesh Labour Force Survey 2016-17,” shows that the country’s overall estimated unemployment rate, in terms of percentage of the labour force, was 4.2%, with 4.9% in urban and 4.0% in rural areas.
The group with the highest unemployment rate was youths aged 15-24, at 12.3%, followed by the 25-34 age group, with 5.7%.
For an estimated 2.68 million unemployed persons who are over 15 years of age, 1.36 million are between 15 and 24 years old – which is 50.8% of the working age population – and 1.32 million are over 25 years old, which is 49.2%, said the BBS report.
The report also stated that unemployment rate among literate people, at 5.3%, was higher than that of illiterate persons.
Also according to the report, the unemployment rate shows the underutilization of the labour supply and reflects a failure of the economy to create employment for those who want to work.
However, experts believe that overseas employment can be a solution for this.
In order to create skilled manpower for overseas employment, the Bureau of Manpower, Employment, and Training (BMET) is providing skill development training. Director (Training Operations) of BMET Md Nurul Islam said as of now, the organization has 70 training centres around the country.
In 2017, BMET trained 839,727 people on various subjects, he added.
With the youth making up almost 60% of the population, and a correspondingly competitive job market, migration might solve the unemployment of the country, according to BMET’s annual report.
Over a million workers went for overseas jobs in 2017, which is a 33% increase over 2016, the report said.
In 2015, Bangladesh ranked 9th among top remittance recipients, with nearly $15.4 billion coming in – making up 11% of the country’s GDP. In 2017, the number fell to $13.58 billion.
Professor Md Mainul Islam, chairperson of the Department of Population Sciences at Dhaka University said: “The situation around the world is changing, and the demand for skilled labour is growing in the competitive global market. However, Bangladesh is exporting manpower mostly for low or semi-skilled jobs. If we could export a high-skilled labour force, the country could earn more remittance.”
The professor also said countries such as India, Sri Lanka, and the Philippines have made their forays into the international labour market, and Bangladesh needs the skilled manpower required to compete.
Furthermore, if Bangladesh manages to train such a workforce, they would no longer need to hire people from other countries.
“Bangladesh currently has the opportunity to utilize its working age population. A large share of the country’s population consists of working age people, with a dependency rate that is still quite low,” added the professor.
“However, Bangladesh will not enjoy this opportunity for a demographic dividend for too long. We have around 20 to 22 years of time in our hand to utilize the workforce," claimed Mainul.
“After 2040, the dependency rate of the country may start increasing, so we need to find ways to make the best of the time we have to utilize the working age population and create a skilled labour force within this period,” he added.
The professor stressed the importance of vocational education for the creation of skilled manpower, and the identification of new regional labour markets around the globe where the labour force can gain employment.
He also mentioned the need for change in the existing market and education structure, in order to create applied-knowledge-oriented curricula and jobs. This would draw increased investment into the market, resulting in the creation of more job opportunities.
Prof Mainul also said that a combination of practical and theoretical education is needed for aspiring workers, while more cooperation between the ministries concerned with this sector should be ensured along with a more developed youth policy, t o reduce the unemployment rate.
Meanwhile, The United Nations also mentioned education and training as key determinants of success in the labor market.
They said existing systems are failing to address the learning needs of many young people, with surveys of learning outcomes and skills showing that a large percentage of the youth have subpar levels of achievement in basic literacy and numeracy.
In order to raise awareness on the importance of investing in the development of skills among the youth, the United Nations General Assembly decided to designate July 15 as World Youth Skills Day.