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Cashing in on the demographic dividend

  • Published at 10:47 pm June 11th, 2019
Pic-Syed Zakir Hossain
Young people will change the nation Syed Zakir Hossain/Dhaka Tribune

Will Bangladesh be able to reap the benefits?

Whether Bangladesh’s overpopulation is a curse or blessing is a debatable issue. However, there is no disagreement on the importance of the demographic dividend, which is a blessing for all nations. 

A few decades ago, the trend of the demographic dividend emerged in Bangladesh. Despite this, we still see no significant investment in the use of Bangladesh’s youth dividend. It should be noted that Bangladesh is making remarkable progress economically, socially, and politically. 

Therefore, the question naturally arises here -- will Bangladesh be able to take advantage of the demographic dividend?

However, due to the hopeful socio-economic and demographic scenario, the window of opportunity has become a global concern among policy-makers as well as other social organizations. 

For instance, the world has witnessed that South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, China, Japan, and some other nations were able to grab the opportunity in developing their economy by implementing an appropriate combination of economic and social policies. 

This has enabled those nations to transform the large cohort of the young population into a productive and skilled workforce.

According to the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Bangladesh has already observed demographic dividends since the 1990s that will continue until 2050. 

It is a great honour to know that Bangladesh is now eligible to graduate from the list of Least Developed Countries (LDCs) to a lower middle developing nation. 

Bangladesh has set a landmark record in poverty alleviation by reducing the level of 24.6% between 2000 to 2016. However, the current extreme poverty rate is 12.9 %, which is still quite worrisome. 

Moreover, the lack of adequate management of workforce, insufficient employment creation, the mismatch between the demand and supply side, inefficiency investment, and lower savings rate are very common phenomena in Bangladesh. These could be the main hurdles on the way to eradicating extreme poverty.

Due to globalization, global and regional competition is accelerating across the world. Bangladesh is not an exception. In order to compete globally, Bangladesh should take advantage of the demographic bonus while crossing the demographic dividend phase. 

To take advantage of the demographic bonus, several initiatives need to be taken into account -- first, it is essential to ensure quality education for young children in order to improve their ability to participate in the labour market. Apart from this, policy-makers should take concrete steps to reduce the drop-out rate at all levels of education. 

Second, it is said that the younger generation is wealth for a country. In order to provide better health services to the young population, a significant investment is paramount for the health sector, which will contribute to a healthy and productive workforce. 

Thirdly, more emphasis needs to be placed on TVET education to build a skilled and market-oriented workforce for economic prosperity. This will create employment opportunities and reduce the mismatch between demand and supply of skilled labour.

Fourth, there is a pressing need to promote entrepreneurial skills among young people. We need to change our thinking to motivate the younger generation to become entrepreneurs rather than public servants, doctors, engineers, etc. 

Fifth, with global economic progress, the demand for skilled labour force is growing rapidly around the world. In addition, the world will enter the 4th phase of the industrial revolution, which could be threatened for unskilled migrant workers particularly developing nations like Bangladesh. 

Therefore, it is very important that policy-makers take effective steps to set up various skills development programs to train the young workforce in order to make them competent enough to persist in the global revolution.

Six, child marriage is another social disease which impedes economic and social development. Because it prevents the girls from completing their education as well as participating in a labour market that results in a decline in women’s participation in the labour force. 

The government, private, and other social organizations must pull up their socks to end child marriage to improve the productivity of young women. 

Seven, the government must take the bull by the horns to stop all the root causes of different forms of violence against women such as gender discrimination, dowry system, sexual violence, kidnapping, human trafficking, and acid throwing that degrade the situation of girls and women in our society. 

Eight, student politics should be qualitatively changed, instead of abusing power and viewing politics as a profession. 

Therefore, policy-makers, stakeholders, businessmen, and civil society should work together to formulate effective policies to take advantage of the demographic dividend for sustainable economic development.

Nusrat Jafrin is Assistant Professor, Department of Population Sciences, University of Dhaka. Muhammad Mehedi Masud is Assistant Professor, Department of Development Studies, University of Malaya, Malaysia.