Sanem says in joint webinar with ActionAid Bangladesh
Experts on Sunday said that the country's youth have been affected by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, mainly through two aspects, education and employment.
They made the remarks at a webinar jointly organized by South Asian Network on Economic Modeling (Sanem) and ActionAid Bangladesh, titled "National Budget 2021-22 from Youth Perspective."
Prof Selim Raihan, executive director of Sanem, said that the allocation in the national budget for fiscal year 2021-22 for youth was severely inadequate.
"If we fail to take proper steps in tackling Covid-19, we will fall behind in achieving our various goals - the consequences of which will fall upon the youth," he warned.
Sanem also presented statistics where they said that even before the pandemic, nearly 10.6% youth were unemployed while 29.8% of the total youth population were not in education, employment and training (NEET).
Moreover, 89% of the total employed youth were engaged in informal and vulnerable forms of employment.
Several studies conducted by Sanem during the pandemic revealed that only 22% students managed to regularly participate in online classes and 57.7% have never availed any digital device for educational purposes, indicating a widening disparity in access to education.
Furthermore, due to the income shock caused by the pandemic, 19% additional university students will fall into poverty.
According to Sanem’s nationwide household survey conducted in 2020, 57.4% of salaried youth and 79.7% of self-employed youth reported a decline in their earnings and profit.
Farah Kabir, country director of ActionAid Bangladesh, chaired the webinar.
She urged the government to focus on the youth and use their potential as a means of driving economic prosperity within the country.
She also stressed on the importance of facilitating data collection and sharing between research organizations and policymakers to identify the worst-affected groups of the population and extend support to lift them out of their socioeconomic miseries.
Farzeen Ferdous Alam, chairman of Oggro Ventures, said from his perspective as a youth representative that timely initiatives such as the stimulus packages from last year have still not been implemented properly.
Nahim Razzaq, MP and chief guest of the webinar, said that despite having significant budgetary allocations in each national budget, failure in coordination and implementation act as major obstacles for extending support to the ultra-poor and disadvantaged youth population.
He stressed the need for reforms in the education and training sectors to ensure a more market-oriented curriculum.
Prof Sayema Haque Bidisha, research director of Sanem, said that the pandemic has created several challenges for fresh graduates and new entrants in the labour force who are looking to secure decent employment.
She also raised alarm regarding the increasing rates of school dropouts, child labour, domestic abuse and child marriage which are going to have long-term intergenerational effects.
According to Prof Bidisha, the government and relevant policy-makers must increasingly focus on making the national budget more youth-centric in order to reap the benefits of Bangladesh’s demographic dividend.
She suggested this by investing more on education, health, social safety net and creating employment opportunities.
Sanem Senior Research Associate Eshrat Sharmin said that Bangladesh was almost at the midway of the dividend period which will close around 2040.
The pandemic has created several obstacles for the youth and might ultimately contribute to rising youth unemployment, she also said.