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Realities of youth employment

Shaikha Shuhada Panzeree | Published: 00:00, Jul 22,2018

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On July 15, globally and locally, the World Youth Skills day was observed. In Bangladesh, more than two million young people enter the job market each year, but our job market cannot manage to accommodate even one fifth of them. In this context, Shaikha Shuhada Panzeree writes about the realities of youth employment in Bangladesh.

As we look around, we see plenty of youth organisations and entrepreneurs organising trainings, workshops and discussion sessions on how to develop oneself as a qualified candidate for a certain job or profession. While this sounds promising, and despite the fact that the youth is apparently not sitting idle but working on themselves to grow better, our job market and labour force present before us an opposite, a rather demotivating, employment situation. Masud (pseudonym) completed his graduation in polytechnic engineering two years back and has been looking for a job ever since. He interviewed for quite a few companies till now but couldn’t manage to get a decent job as the competition is quite high. The people who interviewed with him include five or six year seniors than him and employers are reluctant to appoint a fresh graduate without any previous work experience. In a situation like this, Masud now home tutors school and college level students to pay for his expenses. There are thousands of unemployed fresh graduates like Masud who have not got a job yet, or employ themselves otherwise.

Against a whopping 7.28 per cent rate of economic growth, the number of unemployed population has increased 0.1 million in 2016-2017 compared to the previous fiscal year. This came out in the latest Labour Force Survey 2016-2017 of Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics. The survey states the employment situation in the country to be job-rich, however, the same survey findings show that the number of workable people increased more than the jobs created, in other words, more people are jobless. The survey divides the unemployed labour force in three sections starting from the age of 15-24, 25-29 and, 30 above. The total amount of unemployed people are 2.6 million and the total percentage of unemployed people is 4.18 per cent which remained almost the same as the previous year.

It is not like there has not been any positive turns in the employment sector, women are getting more engaged in paid employment than before. As the survey shows, the female labour force increased at a rate of 4.6 per cent compared to that of 1 per cent growth in male labour force.

Setting this one positivity aside, among the unemployed, the most concerning group of people are the educated youth, who has completed their tertiary level education. The survey shows, if sorted by educational qualification, 1.5 per cent of the unemployed have no primary schooling, 2.7 per cent have some or completed primary schooling, 6.4 per cent have completed secondary or post-secondary level. The most shocking fact is that, among the unemployed, youth having completed their tertiary education, covers a big number of 11.2 per cent. As it is absolutely clear from the numbers, educated youth are three times more likely to not get jobs compared to others.

The International Labour Organisation considers people who work at least one hour a week to be also employed, BBS follows the same criteria, and even then the number of unemployed populations stands at 2.6 million. This indicates to the lower quality of jobs that the entire labour force along with the educated youth are exposed to having no quality alternative.

This is not only demotivating for the youth and their families who have invested enough time, effort and money in educating them, but it is also a dark news for the country as it has been lagging behind in using its educated youth to substantiate the economic development it is thriving to achieve in the near future.

The number of job creation has declined to 13 lakh from 14 lakh in 2015-2016 fiscal year against the economic growth. How does it work for the ever increasing educated young generation?

A majority of the educated youth go for the government jobs aka service sector for the security it provides with, however, not to mention, the demand is rather high compared to the need, making it impossible for most of the educated youth to get jobs in this sector. Some try for industrial and agricultural sector, some come up with small business ideas giving birth to small scale entrepreneurs, and some of them, after hard works, manage to get a decent living out of their inputs. When none of these work out, youth lose the interest in life, reports of committing suicide failing to get a job are nothing new anymore, a good amount of them become drug addicted, some try out the forbidden road of corruption and get webbed in the circle.

Many a social thinkers, educationists and economists believe the problem does not only lie with the creation of jobs, but in the educational system itself which lacks skill based training from the middle of schooling to anywhere in their educational journey. New Age Youth have contacted with a few of such signatories to shed some light on this given situation and the possible way out.


‘Economic growth does not necessarily create employment.’

Anu Mohammad

Professor, Department of Economics, Jahangirnagar University

Economic growth does not necessarily create employment. It depends on quality of growth, how it is happening. Commercialisation is good for having higher GDP growth but that does not ensure employment creation. Any economic activity that involves sales and purchase helps GDP to grow. Big real estate business is growing on landfills of encroached rivers and canals; forests, rivers, canals and open spaces which are common property are being grabbed by certain groups, increasing prices of land. Other than construction, the government also has interest in big purchase. Equipments are being purchased even without work, buses are being purchased only to become invisible or out of order within few months, Demo trains are bought with high price only to make more losses. All these added GDP.

Rise of corruption is good for GDP growth. Government has become highly liberal to increase project cost, all road and bridges become most expensive in Bangladesh, no doubt that involves huge corruption. All these are contributing for higher GDP growth but not increasing employment, rather threatening employment opportunities in different ways.


The table above illustrates that unemployment rate was highest in higher secondary group (14.9 per cent), followed by tertiary level (11.2 per cent), other education groups (4.6 per cent) and secondary (4.6 per cent). For the less educated (primary 2.7 per cent, none 1.5 per cent) group, the unemployed rate was less than the national average at 4.2 per cent. (Source: The Labour Force Survey, 2016-2017, Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics)

The commercial expansion of the education sector is giving good business to certain groups, increasing number of coaching centres, guide books — all are bringing business. Even employments are also turn into contract business. Privatisation and commercialisation of health sector also created business opportunities for few and making contribution to the GDP growth. But all these making education and health care more expensive for the common people.

It seems that the main goal of the government is to increase GDP by any means even at the cost of people and environment to make growth rate look good and to rationalise plunder and corruption. Employment generation is not in the list or does not go with this. Therefore we are experiencing jobless and environmentally disastrous economic growth.


‘Ecologically sensitive, locally oriented youth involvement could bring change.’

Delwar Jahan

Farmer, Prakritik Krishi

There are a few layers of engaging the educated youth in agricultural sector.

The problem with educated youth engaging in agriculture is that they take it as an industry, and they invest in big firms instead of managing the agricultural needs personally, as a result they have to spend more money and eventually run out of capital.

And then there is a part of youth who take the agricultural sector to be an industry in itself from a conceptual perspective. Some people thought if agricultural sector could be considered as an industry it might work out for the best, as we have seen in so many TV programmes working with that aim, but that too failed.

The main focus should go to making agriculture profitable as that is the core reason for demotivating youth for investing in agriculture. The youth who are brought up in villages, somehow got the idea that agriculture is the work of the lowest economic class and they want a change. So they will go on and work in industries, work more and get paid less than they would work in agriculture and still consider the industrial works to be better than agriculture.

But youth could make a difference. If after completing their education, they used their knowledge to invest and enhance our agriculture, both the side could profit from it. Using one’s own land may be a good start, leasing lands and employing local people would be a good turnout for the youth as they will earn a commendable amount, and also create more opportunities for other people.


‘A skill and productivity based labour force still lacking’

Mostafizur Rahman

Distinguished Fellow, Centre for Policy Dialogue

When we talk about the unemployed population, the first thing we will have to figure out is that how many of them are looking for work and how many of them are not.

About 35 per cent of the unemployed population is considered NEET, not in education, employment, or training. We have to focus more on how to bring this one third of the unemployed into the labour market.

Even for the educated youth, it is a must to grow a certain skill. If we can ensure a productivity and enhancement based employment sector, our youth wouldn’t have to be jobless. But otherwise, we will be facing a sad scenario of labour dividend within the 30 years or so.

One effective and significant change might be including vocational trainings into school curriculums after class eight, so that, even if they leave education in the secondary level, they may take a skill with them. If Bangladesh wants to achieve its 2040 goal of being a developed country, it is a must to grow a skill and productivity based labour force.

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