We need to bridge the gap between the education system and the job market
According to the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS), the unemployment rate in Bangladesh is 4.37% which is equivalent to America’s. The rate of unemployment among people with tertiary level education has considerably risen up, according to the latest Labour Force Survey (LFS) by BBS.
About 46% of the total unemployed youth are university graduates. The Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) also noted the rising unemployment rate among the relatively more educated labour force.
On the other hand, a large number of foreigners -- mainly from India and Sri Lanka -- are working in various industrial sectors. This is happening because our local labour force lacks the required technical and managerial skills much-needed in the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
In our growing economy, more than two million young people enter the job market every year, and they are almost three times more likely to be unemployed than others. Many of them are ill-paid, and the situation for women is worse.
The question is: Can the market generate as many jobs as required? If not, then what are the jobless youth doing? Does the government have the latest data of the number of jobless youth and the needs of the job market?
In fact, the lack of placement policy and poor skill development initiatives from the government results in joblessness which is pushing the youth into a domain of desperation. And lack of skill-based education and the existence of irrelevant degrees which do not match the needs of the job market also contribute to their compounding anxieties.
In his article, Biru Paksha Paul -- currently professor of economics at the State University of New York at Corland -- said, “We have produced millions of youths holding master’s degrees in Chemistry, Physics, Philosophy, History, Political Science, English, and Literature. But most of them, if not all, want to be magistrates where power and money merge together without the need for any ready skills.”
Can we deny this reality? Last year, we observed that the demand for quota reform in government jobs was reportedly high from all quarters, especially from the students studying in colleges and universities. No doubt, this reform had long been overdue.
And because of the discriminatory quota system, lots of meritorious students opting for civil services have been deprived over the years. But do our graduates have only one option ie government jobs?
If so, then why does a student study applied chemistry or physics? Why does a student want to study business administration or pharmacy? Why does a graduate having MBBS degree want to be a police officer or magistrate?
Why does a student want to be a customs officer after graduating in computer science and engineering? Why do most of the students have to sit for BCS exams after their graduation? Can’t the private sector jobs attract graduates passing out of these universities?
Simultaneously, the government needs to seek answers to these questions if they really want to deal with the unemployment problem. Otherwise, the country will lack skilled human resources in the private sector which will ultimately depend on the foreign workforce.
Students studying medical science or engineering are supposed to become doctors or engineers. Why would they want to become police officers or magistrates?
This has created a huge system loss. If we let a university graduate having MBBS or engineering or MBA/M Pharm degree become a BCS cadre (customs officer or magistrate), the nation will lose an efficient doctor/engineer/banker or a good pharmacist.
Ultimately the country will badly lack their services. Besides, the government spends large sums of the taxpayers’ money on someone studying in a government university.
So the government needs to formulate a very clear and comprehensive policy to streamline the young people in the right direction of employment and utilize the human resources or human capital in a more effective manner.
In the existing education system, we don’t value skill-based learning. The youth are automatically discouraged from acquiring skills when they find that those same skills are mostly useless in the job market.
Besides, our guardians encourage the children to pursue traditional degrees like BA/MA or MBBS/Engineering and want them to get white-collar jobs which give them social security and status in the future.
In our society, few would opt for a one-year certificate course on hotel management when they find themselves jobless after graduation. At the same time, we are not sure whether or not the industry/employer is ready to take on these graduates having a diploma in the relevant field and offer them good salary.
For blue collar jobs, we don’t need a university degree. If the employers offer good pay, I think our youths are ready to take up the challenge.
But do all of us have to go for the usual certificates to get a job? We know that many graduates opt for odd jobs when they go abroad and choose to settle over there as immigrants (legal or illegal). Now it’s time to decolonize our mind and eliminate these prejudices and start thinking out of the box.
India, our neighbouring country, opened a separate Ministry for Human Resources and managed to assess the human resources requirement for existing and potential industrial sectors. The Ministry of Human Resources also shared the requirement with the Ministry of Education.
We did no such thing. If we had consistently reshaped the traditional bureaucracy, valued meritocracy in jobs, and developed an educational system based on the needs of industries, our mindset would have changed.
Dr Zahid Hussain -- the lead economist of World Bank’s Dhaka office -- said, “This is a structural mismatch. When we talk to relatives, they say there are not enough jobs. But when we talk to entrepreneurs, they say where are the people to hire?”
It shows that the quality of education in the existing system doesn’t match the needs of the current job market. The government should take the lead to work on ensuring quality education by upgrading the curriculum at all levels and also launch a separate Ministry for Human Resources which will make a database for assessing the needs of the industry and the number of students graduating every year.
This ministry would help bridge the gap between educational institutions and the industry/job market as well.
The government should also prioritize in upgrading the education system at each level immediately, attract local/foreign investors efficiently, and establish good governance at all sectors.
And, naturally, the country’s economy will sustain its climbing growth, and our youths will become employed.
Sheikh Nahid Neazy is Associate Professor & Chair, Department of English, Stamford University Bangladesh.