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CPD dialogue: Higher growth fails to generate adequate employment opportunities in Bangladesh

  • Published at 10:22 pm February 10th, 2019
Policymakers and economists, including Planning Minister MA Mannan and CPD Chairman Prof Rehman Sobhan at a dialogue titled 'Pursuing Inclusive Growth: Priorities for the New Government', organized by CPD at Lakeshore Hotel, Dhaka on February 10, 2019 Mehedi Hasan/Dhaka Tribune

According to the World Bank, 2.1 million people are expected to enter Bangladesh's labour market every year till 2023

Economists and policy analysts on Sunday said higher growth has failed to generate enough employment opportunities in the country, and that the benefits of growth are unequally distributed. 

They came up with the observations at a dialogue titled “Pursuing Inclusive Growth: Priorities for the New Government”, organized by the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) at Lakeshore Hotel, Dhaka.

Terming these two issues as major barriers to inclusive economic growth in Bangladesh,  Executive Director of CPD Fahmida Khatun, explained in her keynote presentation that despite impressive economic growth and increase in employment, "the jobs created were not adequate to meet the market demand”.

According to the World Bank, 2.1 million people are expected to enter Bangladesh's labour force every year till 2023.  However, data by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) revealed that between 2015–2017, only 1,296,000 jobs were created in Bangladesh.

Fahmida added: “This implies that even approximately 1.3 million jobs are created each year, about 800,000 newly unemployed people will join the already huge unemployed population in the country each year.”

The keynote reveals that the education sector received 16.4% of total budget allocation for FY2017-18. This is a departure from actual expenditure, which was exhibiting an increasing trend from FY2012-13 to reach 19.1% of total expenditure in FY2016-17. 

Per capita real expenditure on education increased by Tk445 during FY2008-09 to FY2016-17.

“Public education allocation should be increased to at least 4% of the GDP [gross domestic product] and 20% of the national budget,” Fahmida Khatun added. 

Deputy Education Minister Mohibul Hassan Chowdhury  said that education has seen a lot of investment, during Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's tenure. "These developments should also be discussed along with the shortcomings," he added. 

Speaking at the dialogue as the chief guest, Planning Minister MA Mannan said the government is emphasizing on ensuring electricity supply for all, claiming it to be the "main barrier against inclusive development". 

Chairman of CPD Prof Rehman Sobhan recommended investigating the driving forces behind growth, instead of portraying growth merely through some figures.

He also called for adopting policies favorable for employment generation, elimination of inequality and inclusive growth. "High quality public education and health services should be the indicators of development," he said.

CPD Distinguished Fellow Prof Mustafizur Rahman moderated the dialogue. 

CPD also launched a new book titled "State of the Bangladesh Economy and National Elections 2018–Priorities for Electoral Debates" at the event. 

Speakers at the dialogue also recommended improving the education system to help build the analytical competence of students, increasing access to computers and broadband connectivity—particularly in the rural areas. 

They further suggested developing skills of the country's labour force through technical and vocational training, and investing mobilizing resources from new and innovative sources, and improving efficiency of resource utilization.

Among others, Executive Director of Campaign for Popular Education (CAMPE) and former adviser to the caretaker government Rasheda K Choudhury, Former President of Bangladesh Medical Association (BMA) Prof Rashid-E-Mahbub, and Gonoshasthaya Kendra Founder Dr Zafrullah Chowdhury, also participated in the dialogue. 

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