Corona-time job-losing youths
A note of gloom underlies the recently published ILO-ADB report on the present youth job situation in the Asia and Pacific region. While dwelling on Bangladesh, along with 12 other countries, the joint report observes that some 1.11 million to 1.67 million youths are feared to lose jobs in 2020. The reason has been cited as the corona-triggered 'massive disruptions' caused to the country's labour market. The youth job situation has begun to be stuck in the doldrums since the pandemic hardly crossed the first month. In the following months, the youth joblessness continued unabated. Lately, the premature return of expatriate Bangladeshi workers due to the pandemic has added to the miseries of the youth job sector.
According to the joint study conducted by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the country's youth unemployment rate may witness a two-fold rise to 24.8 per cent in 2020. The rate was 11.9 per cent in 2019, it added. In a break-up of the percentage in the job losses, the report puts the agriculture sector at the top with 22.9 per cent cut in employment. It is feared to be followed by 13.6 per cent in the textile and apparel sector, 12.8 per cent and 12.1 per cent in the construction and retail trade sectors respectively. The fact that the roots of the youth joblessness woes across the Asia and Pacific region lie in the raging corona pandemic recurs in the report. Viewing in global perspective, it cannot be otherwise. The young will be hit harder than adults in the immediate future, and it might leave greater long-term economic and social impacts in the said 13 countries.
Many would feel inclined to call the jobless youths the 'lockdown generation', similar to a sobriquet used by the great novelist Earnest Hemingway for the aimless youths in post-First World War era. He called them the 'Lost Generation'. The plight in which the pandemic-hit young workforce discovers itself now in Bangladesh and the countries in the Asia-Pacific region is fast emerging as abysmal. Calling them the 'lockdown generation' couldn't have been more apt. Commensurate with the present situation the ILO-ADB projection highlights a bleak statistics: between 10 and 15 million youth jobs may be lost in the 13 countries in the Asia-Pacific region in 2020.
In spite of such a challenging state, Bangladesh has attached great importance to finding out an immediate way out of the imbroglio. The most upsetting part of the ongoing adversity comprises reduced working hours leading, eventually, to layoffs. In its effort to suggest a bailout strategy for the region's job losing youths, the ILO-ADB report floats remedial ways. It urges the Asia-Pacific governments to adopt urgent and targeted measures to generate jobs for youths, and keep education and training on track. Bangladesh has already started mulling these steps. But before swinging into long-term action, it's imperative that the government sensitised the disenchanted youths to the pandemic realities, and arranged for their stop-gap earnings.