Absorbing all the unemployed youth to workforce is a daunting task for Bangladesh. It is nothing unique to this country though. This challenge is global.
As nations all over the globe observes the World Youth Skills Day on July 15, what Bangladesh probably needs to do is imbue skills into young working-age people turning them thereby market-ready for overseas jobs.
United Nations recognises rising youth unemployment as one of the most significant problems of developed and developing countries. According to UN estimates, 475 million new jobs need to be created over the next decade to absorb the 73 million youth currently unemployed and the 40 million new annual entrants to the labour market worldwide.
Meanwhile, Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics in its ‘Bangladesh Labour Force Survey 2016-17’ shows that the overall estimated unemployment rate (defined as the unemployed as a percentage of the labour force) was 4.2 per cent in the country. It is 4.9 percent for urban and 4.0 percent for rural areas.
The highest unemployment rate was found among youths, those aged 15-24 which is 12.3 per cent, followed by those aged 25-34 years, which is 5.7 per cent.
There are an estimated 2.68 million unemployed persons who are aged 15 or older. Of them 1.36 million are aged between 15 to 24 years old, which is 50.8 percent of the working age population while 1.32 million are aged above 25 years, which is 49.2 percent of it, said the report.
The report also revealed that unemployment rate has been the highest among the literate persons (5.3 per cent) than that of illiterate persons (1.7 per cent).
According to the report, the unemployment rate signals to some extent the underutilization of the labour supply. It reflects the inability of an economy to generate employment for people who want to work but are not doing so, even though they are available for employment and actively seeking work.
While the youth unemployment rate is a big challenge for the country, experts believe that overseas employment from Bangladesh can be a solution for this.
To create skilled manpower for overseas employment, Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training is providing skill development training. BMET has 70 training centers countrywide so far, said, Md Nurul Islam, director (training operation) of BMET.
In 2017, BMET trained 839,727 people under various categories, he added.
With a growing youth population of almost 60 percent and tight job market, migration can be a solution to prevailing unemployment of the country, states BMET annual report.
In 2017, more than 10 lakh workers went for overseas jobs, a 33 percent surge over the number of 2016, says the report.
In 2015, Bangladesh was ranked 9th among top remittance recipients, fetching nearly US$ 15.4 billion, which is around 11 percent of the country’s gross domestic product. In 2017, total remittance received by Bangladesh was US$ 13.58 billion, states the report.
Professor Mohammad Mainul Islam, Chairperson of Department of Population Sciences in Dhaka University said, ‘The global scenario is changing. In the competitive global market, demand of skilled labour is growing while Bangladesh is exporting manpower mostly in low or semi-skilled jobs. If we could export high skilled labour force, then the country could have earned more remittance.’
Mainul Islam said, countries like India, Sri Lanka and the Philippines have entered in the global market with their manpower. Bangladesh also needs to build skilled manpower keeping the competition in mind.
Also, if skilled manpower could be developed, there would have been no need to hire skilled people from other countries like India in Bangladesh, he added.
Bangladesh currently has the opportunity of utilizing its working age population. At present, a large share of the country’s population is working age people while the dependency rate is still quite low, added the professor.
‘But Bangladesh will not enjoy the opportunity (demographic dividend) too long. We have around 20 to 22 years of time in our hand to utilize the working force’, claimed the demographer.
‘After 2040, the dependency rate (aged people) may start increasing. So we must find ways to use the working age population and create skilled labour force within the time we have’, he added.
The professor stressed on vocational education to create skilled manpower as well as identify new markets globally to utilize the labour force.
He also stressed on the need of changing the existing market structure and education structure to create applied-knowledge oriented curriculum and job and draw more investment in the market to create more job opportunities.
Professor Mainul suggested that a balanced combination of practical and theoretical education is needed, while more cooperation between the ministries working for this sector should be ensured with more developed youth policy to reduce the youth unemployment rate.
United Nations also addressed education and training as the key determinants of success in the labor market.
According to UN, existing systems are failing to address the learning needs of many young people, and surveys of learning outcomes and skills show that a large number of youth have low levels of achievement in basic literacy and numeracy.
To raise awareness on the importance of investing in youth skills development, the United Nations General Assembly decided to designate July 15 as World Youth Skills Day.
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