Experts at a webinar on Saturday said policymakers should put extra emphasis on education, youth employment, poverty, and gender issues in the 8th five-year plan considering changes in the sectors caused by the pandemic.
They also called for improved and latest statistics before implementing the policy to better understand digital, gender, and geographical divide in online education, income loss and job switch, technical education and gender gap in development approaches.
The suggestions came at a webinar titled "Reflection of Youth and Gender Issues in 8th Five-Year Plan in Light of the Pandemic" jointly organised by South Asian Network on Economic Modeling (SANEM) and ActionAid Bangladesh (AAB).
Planning minister MA Mannan addressed the virtual programme as the chief guest. Directorate of Technical Education director (planning and development) Md Jahangir Alam and SANEM executive director Dr Selim Raihan also spoke at the event presided over by AAB country director Farah Kabir.
The webinar was moderated by SANEM's research director Dr Sayema Haque Bidisha while the keynote paper was presented by SANEM's research economist Eshrat Sharmin.
Talking about the post-pandemic challenges, Dr Raihan said the pandemic has created challenges towards achieving SDGs in areas of education, health, employment, poverty eradication and gender equality etc.
"But are we certain about the challenges? How would it be assessed?" he questioned adding: there are no extensive researches to identify challenges intensified due to the pandemic.
He also said, "We are far behind achieving the targets before the pandemic and the situation may worsen further in future so that precise assessment is required before making policies to overcome the post-pandemic challenges."
In this regard, he said, the 8th five-year plan is very crucial and there are scopes of rethinking the strategies before going into implementation phase.
Dr Raihan suggested that policymakers should beat conventionality in setting strategies to address issues like new poor amid income loss, job switch, education dropout, digital divide in online education, and gender issues.
To better understand the actual effects of the pandemic, high-frequency data is a must, he added.
Acknowledging widening gaps in different sectors due to the pandemic, the planning minister said, "There are mismatches between theoretical concept and real situation, but the government is trying its best to overcome pandemic related challenges."
He said fundamentally the country's youths search for jobs, not work; such socio-cultural practice needs to be broken down in a bid to encourage an entrepreneurial mindset among them.
Mentioning that there is no alternative to improving technical education in the country, the minister said the government is very sincere in developing a technical education ecosystem by allocating more resources and re-skilling teachers.
For better planning, better statistics are required, Mr Mannan said, adding: "I admit that our statistics haven't yet reached the desired level and we are aware of improving the data quality."
Referring that the rate of technical education reached about 17 per cent recently from 1.0 per cent in 2009, Mr Alam said to encourage more female in technical education, the government increased the quota for them to 20 per cent from 10 per cent.
Besides, all the female students studying in government or private technical institutes will get monthly stipends while stipend is applicable for 70 per cent of male students, he added.
Ms Kabir said long-term steps should be taken to get benefits from demographic dividend to achieve 'Vision 2041'.
The policies shouldn't discriminate among social classes, men and women and marginal people in terms of their geographical location, race or religion, she added.
She also said the gaps should be reduced in accessing technology-based education like distant learning, online classes, and employment through digital platforms.
In her presentation, Ms Sharmin said before the pandemic, the unemployment rate of young people in the country was 10.7 per cent which is projected by the World Bank to rise to 25 per cent.
At the same time, almost 30 per cent of the youth population was not in employment, education or training (NEET) in 2017 which may have worsened due to the Covid-19 situation.
Citing the ILO data, she said around 1.7 million youths may lose jobs due to the pandemic if the virus containment measures continue to be in force for the next six months.
Besides, with a negative income shock of 25 per cent, the overall poverty rate will be 40.9 per cent, which means another 20.4 per cent of the population will fall into poverty, she added citing a SANEM study conducted within three months of the pandemic.
Deputy Secretary of Youth and Sports Ministry Md Sayed Ali, Director of Gender, Justice & Diversity (GJD) and Preventing Violence against Women Initiative of BRAC Nobonita Chowdhury, and founder and Managing Director of Shohoz Limited Maliha M Quadir also spoke on the occasion.