The case for reform in the government employment system
This year in April, Tanvir Rahman, a student of Dhaka University, committed suicide by jumping from the roof of a nine-storied building in the university campus. Even though he was working as a merchandiser in an RMG company, he killed himself because he was unable to acquire a government job.
He had been trying for four years, and, despite being the son of a freedom fighter, for whom there is a quota, he was still unable to get a job. Considering the unemployment rate and negative aspects of private-sector jobs, government jobs now present something of an economic lifeline for many enterprising job-seekers.
The recent quota protest organized by general students was a turning point for our society. Private universities are perceived as the domain of the well-off, people who seldom have to seek government jobs -- but even they took part in the protests.
The movement ended and the protests stopped -- or at least that’s what we thought.
The young are the main driving force for development in any nation. After student-life, almost everyone sets out into the world looking for a job, and given the relative economic safety that government jobs present, it’s only natural for young people to vie for them, which is further fuelled by the daunting, cut-throat nature of working in the private sector.
Also, public service jobs are highly valued in society, which is an absolute requirement in the marriageability of a man in the less-educated rungs of our socio-economic ladder.
Public jobs comply with welfare-based labour laws, which prompt the government to think about the well-being of employees in lieu of rules and regulations, which only consider organizational objectives. There is less of a focus on skills and work experience in the public sector, which means pretty much everybody can apply for them if they meet the minimum educational requirements and the corresponding written tests.
After the implementation of the 2015 pay scale, the salary increased by 100% for government job holders. Likewise, there has not been any non-cadre recruitment since 2016, which has frustrated the youth and influenced them into waging movement such as the one we saw a few months ago. Now, the non-cadre posts have been filled up by BCS candidates.
Also, government employees have a certain stature in our society, given that job holders never lose their jobs unless there is an economic recession. We need affirmative action to reduce this imbalance.
The government needs to establish labour laws and a pension policy for private sector employees, to make sure that the facilities ratio of employees between private and public sectors is equal.
We need a human resource ministry like our neighbouring countries in order to shrink the gap between our education system and the market requirement, as well as other manpower-related developments. To that end, a loan policy for the vocational graduates and youth entrepreneurs would prove instrumental.
The current government needs to play a supportive role and balance the prevailing untenable situation, and build up a standard pay structure and facilities for all citizens -- whether they be in the public or private sectors.
Shahid Emon is freelance contributor.