'It is a matter of shame for me that despite being the eldest son of the family, I remain unemployed'
Shamim Ahasan, a Dhaka University graduate who will soon cross the government job age limit, is suffering from depression as he is finding it very hard to secure employment in a Covid-19 ravaged economy.
Expressing his frustration, he said: “Since I am 29 now, the pressure and responsibility of looking after my family comes naturally.
“My family, which is poor, had spent a lot of money on my studies. And for this, they don’t have any savings. So, now it is my turn to return the favour.”
“I just need a job to make me feel confident. But I have been trying since April and am yet to find a job circular, let it be from a private company or a government organization, that suits me and is convenient.”
Shamim did apply for multiple public and private jobs in early March, before the first coronavirus cases and deaths were reported. But the exam dates for these vacancies, including that for the Bangladesh Civil Service (BCS), have been postponed indefinitely due to the ongoing pandemic.
“It is a matter of shame for me that despite being the eldest son of the family, I remain unemployed. Moreover, my two younger siblings are struggling to continue their studies due to lack of money,” he added.
Meanwhile, Amanullah, a private university graduate, told this correspondent that he had been interviewed by a company before March. “I was scheduled to join in April,” he said, adding: “But that company did not recruit me showing the Covid-19 crisis as the reason.”
Similarly, most of the unemployed population, especially the country’s educated youth, are going through similar hardships, moving towards an uncertain future forced by a global crisis that is far from over.
Numbers don’t lie
According to a recent survey conducted by the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS) -- from May 5 to May 29 -- around 13% of those who were employed before Covid-19 lost their jobs.
Moreover, 19.23% of the participants in the survey with an income of less than Tk5,000 said that their income had reduced by 75%, while 23.31%, with an income between Tk5,000 to Tk15,000, reported an income reduction of 50% compared to that of April this year due to the pandemic.
Besides, 15.75% of people with an income between Tk15,000 to Tk30,000 reported a reduction of 25% in pay during the same period.
Moreover, the local Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) sector, due to lockdowns imposed to curb the spread of the deadly virus, faced a loss estimated at Tk92,000 crore.
On the other hand, according to an ADB (Asian Development Bank) report, job postings in the largest online job-matching sites including Bdjobs.com, Chakri.com, JOB.COM.BD, and alljobsbd.com have declined since the Covid-19 outbreak in Bangladesh.
In April 2020, the number of job postings for Bangladesh was only 13% of the total jobs posted in the same month of the previous year.
Over 60,000 jobs were posted on bdjobs.com in 2019 and there were 200,000 visitors and over a million-page views per day.
Compared to the data recorded in December 2019, the number of new job postings was about the same in January, 2020, and 10% to 17% fewer in February, but monthly job postings were 35% fewer in March, and 87% fewer in April 2020, although job postings in February, 2020, were only 1% lower.
A sharp decrease in job postings was also noticed across all industries with little variations.
For example, compared to April 2019, the number of job postings in April 2020 was down by 95% in the textile and education industries, and by 92% in the manufacturing industry.
In another report, jointly published by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and ADB on August 18, predicted that an estimated 1,117,000 to 1,675,000 youth in Bangladesh may become unemployed in 2020 due to the massive disruptions in economic activities and labour markets caused by the Covid-19 outbreak.
The youth unemployment rate in Bangladesh may grow more than double to 24.8% in 2020, due to the new job losses, from 11.9% in 2019, mentioned the report titled “Tackling the Covid-19 youth employment crisis in Asia and the Pacific.”
Experts’ take on the crisis
Speaking to Dhaka Tribune Prof Mustafizur Rahman, executive director of the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) said: “The country’s job market will be heavily affected if the economy does not recover. Our educated youth will suffer for this.”
“The government will continue employment but they don’t recruit as much as the private sector who are yet to resume operations in full swing and they are also cutting down their expenses,” added the distinguished fellow.
“So those who issued job circulars for different posts before are now avoiding them. They are only taking people for essential positions. The number of new job circulars has gone down massively as businesses have suffered a lot due to the outbreak,” said Mustafizur, a former professor at Dhaka University.
He urged the government to continue their recruitment procedures so that the youth of the country does not get depressed.
He also said that employment opportunities for the educated young people of Bangladesh was in a decline even before Covid-19 happened.
“Youth unemployment rate is three times higher than the general unemployment rate, as investments were slowing down in the private sector in the pre-pandemic period. Covid-19 made the whole process slower and deepened the crisis,” he furthered.
He also urged private sector investors to refresh their investments.
“But everything now depends on the developments surrounding Covid-19.
“It’s a major challenge for the government to revive the economy following an end to the pandemic,” the economist said, adding, “We have to prioritize macroeconomic policies to do so.”
Are things getting better?
“The impact of Covid-19 will remain for a long time despite the recruitment process getting a bit normalized,” said Fahim Mashroor, founder and chief executive officer at Bdjobs.com.
“Online job postings were reduced by 80% in April and they declined by 70% in May when compared to that of last year.
“Companies and organizations have again resumed recruiting and as a result of that online job circulars have increased by 70% in August,” he added.
Fahim hopes that things from now onwards will begin to get better.
It is to be noted that the government on September 17, relaxed the age limit of the government job applicants in various categories, except for Bangladesh Civil Service, considering the coronavirus situation.
Candidates exceeding the age limit of 30 years after Mar 25, 2020, would still be considered eligible as recruitment tests and processes were deferred.