THE potential of our youth has not been fully realised in Bangladesh. According to a study of the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies, the rate of unemployment among educated youth is 33.2 per cent in the country with higher concentration of joblessness among the graduates and post-graduates. An earlier study conducted under the Higher Education Quality Enhancement Project of the government also found 38 per cent graduates unemployed. The most recent Quality Labour Force Survey of the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics revealed that unemployment rate among the university graduates has increased by one per cent along with decrease in new job creation. Although the national average unemployment rate remains stable at 4.2 per cent, the number of new job creation in the country has declined to 13 lakh from 14 lakh in 2017. The prevailing unemployment situation indicates that the national economic growth failed to create new jobs for the rising number of labour force and proves that increased per capita income does not depict the real economic situation.
Bangladesh has a fairly large young population with 34 per cent aged 15 and younger and more than 65 per cent of our population is of working age that offers the country an opportunity of accelerated economic growth. Economists optimistically call this potential for economic growth the demographic dividend. Due to policy level negligence and ‘jobless’ economic growth, we are unable to churn the benefits of a demographic dividend. Development economists have blamed the inadequate allocation of national budget to attend to the needs of the youth and worries that the consequences of under-investment might turn the country’s first demographic dividend into a nightmare. While the country’s 22 ministries are involved in different processes for youth development, the budgetary allocations for these ministries in the financial year 2017-18 were not sufficient for the programmes undertaken. Meanwhile, about 500,000 Indians are employed in different sectors of Bangladesh and causing a large remittance outflow to India. Foreigners employed in Bangladesh do not often do any specialised job but ordinary administrative work in all levels, for which there is no shortage of Bangladeshi candidates. The government is yet to develop a policy to strictly control the recruitment of foreigners in positions that can easily be filled with its own citizens. The prevailing unemployment situation suggests that the successive governments have no clear vision on how to create opportunity for its young population and realise their full potential for the betterment. Instead, the mainstream political parties have historically treated the population as their muscle power and misguided them.
It is time that the government, particularly the ministry of youth and sports, drafted a comprehensive long-term plan to include the youth in our economic development programmes. Such plans must reflect the particular needs of rural and urban youth. The government should also immediately enact a policy to control the unchecked recruitment of foreigners in Bangladesh. For a stable growth in the job market, the government has no choice but to enable an investment-friendly political environment.
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