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Letting them work

  • Published at 11:50 pm January 5th, 2020

Bangladesh must play a more pro-active role in eliminating structural unemployment among youth

All the member states of the United Nations avowed the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015 to establish the canons that no-one and no country should be left behind. According to the Agenda for Sustainable Development 2030, there is a need to create adequate employment for the youth in order to reduce poverty with higher economic growth.

This implies some targets are directly related to the issue of youth employment through enhancing literacy level with skill development. For example, SDG-8 stipulates the promotion of sustainability, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, opportunities for full and productive employment for the young cohort, technological innovation, and decent work for all.

Therefore, as a member of the United Nations, Bangladesh is one of the potential countries to achieve the SDGs because it has achieved outstanding performance in terms of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), mainly in the case of universal primary education, resulting in lower infant mortality and the maintenance of gender equality.

Despite these best triumphs, this country faces many challenges in the implementation of the SDGs, in particular the SDG-8. Bangladesh suffers from a high youth unemployment rate. According to the 2016-2017 Bangladesh Labour Force Survey, the youth unemployment rate is 10.6% while the total unemployment rate is only 4.2%. At the same time, this country passed the period of demographic bonus which involves the greatest number of young people.

As a result, there is now a paradoxical situation in Bangladesh.

Nothing guarantees positive consequences of the demographic premium if the economic situation of the country does not provide the necessary conditions, such as skilled workers and adequate employment. Less trained human capital negatively affects the demographic dividend as well as the so-called digital dividends in the era of the digital revolution and globalization.

Due to technological innovation, the structure of the economy frequently changes with the organizational structure of societies. For example, the service sector is the largest and most important contributor and dominant segment worldwide, as the service sector increases market competence and efficiency using the knowledge and skill level of the workforce. This scenario exists in both developed countries such as the US, Japan, and France; and developing countries such as Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, and Nepal.

However, although the service sector is the most important sector of our economy, the share of employment is not high in this sector.

Generally, the service sector is different from other sectors in that it deals with intangibles rather than commodities.

Graduate jobs are particularly troubling for many people as companies prefer already trained employees with quality skills and experience, leaving many new graduates unemployed.

Thus, if the workforce does not follow these technological adaptations, it will probably result in technological unemployment, also called structural unemployment.

To overcome this motionless situation, Bangladesh must play a pro-active dynamic role in eliminating structural unemployment among young people. In fact, human capital is the most important resource that plays a vital role in the economic growth of a nation. Therefore, the specific age category, in particular the age cohort of young people, must be taken into account as the supreme boosters of the development context of any country due to some important characteristics of this age group.

First, the youth in the category have the energy to generate new ideas and opinions. From now on, the education system should be reorganized with high quality employment, social fortification, industry, investment, and trade policies to influence this generation in order to stimulate future innovation and development.

Second, young people have the ability to easily adopt new knowledge and technologies. Therefore, educational institutions should introduce certain initiatives such as structured teaching and training workshops through the memorandum of understanding with companies and businesses for new graduates in order to improve their practical knowledge before entering the job market.

Third, given that young people are courageous and dynamic, continuous training in the workplace and lifelong learning allows companies to retain the talented workforce that can adapt to rapid change in technological improvement.

Fourth, in order to take advantage of the comparative advantage of the demographic dividend, systematic human resource management practices should be developed in the public and private sectors. In addition, the coordination of entrepreneurs and skill development trainers regarding information on the structure of the labour market, wages, and employment regulations needs to be regulated.

Fifth, decent work is at the heart of a sustainable, dynamic development system. Therefore, improving decent work will increase the employability of young men and women.

In addition, to strengthen rural communities, a culture of decent work for young people should be adopted.

Last but not least, government, employers, educational institutions, and training associations must provide a comprehensive and integrated framework through which the country can use its demographic dividend by cutting youth unemployment and job opportunities to achieve SDG-8.

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.