The Financial Express

Job retention & creation of new jobs in potential sectors  

Job retention & creation of new jobs in potential sectors   

Covid-19 has already taken a very heavy a toll on the job market. While retaining employees in their jobs is a big issue at this time, creating new jobs is extremely challenging. The President of the Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI) remarked the other day that already 2.2 million people are out of their jobs. He has not quoted any source of his statement; however, in view of the very high reliance of employment on the informal sector and small businesses--- many of which are languishing under the pandemic-driven inactivity, the figure, though a shocker, does not at all look exaggerated.

However serious the situation may be, there is no point of departure from trying to do two things simultaneously--- keeping the employees in their existing jobs as many as possible and exploring avenues to create jobs in areas where despite the pandemic, prospects may still be there for seizing.

Job creation, pivotal to economic consolidation and hence growth, is a must in view of the government's goal of becoming a middle income country. This has also to coincide with plans for poverty alleviation where job creation figures highly prominently. There is no disputing that more jobs mean an economy better steered. Irrespective of the levels of the economies all over the globe, the bottom line has invariably been the success or failure to create jobs for the citizens - at least for the eligible job-seekers. However, the grim reality is that job market all over the world is not opening up as it should have and in time of the lingering pandemic things are far from rosy. 

Although it is not easy to decide on the right approach to quickly fetch economic returns in a country like Bangladesh, job creation is recognised as integrally tied to all other development initiatives, including increased flow of investment and exports. Economists are at one that developing an organised labour market could be critically important for Bangladesh and that the key potential for creating jobs lies in encouraging upward mobility of the relatively unskilled labour through transition from the farm to non-farm sectors. A World Bank report sometime ago had suggested that the country could set a target of creating additional 15 million jobs in the next ten years by establishing more economic zones in order to be on track to move ahead.

Presently, the number of people entering the job market annually is 2.2 million, and those who are provided with jobs are less than 1.0 million. While this remains a serious problem, there is the need for paying attention to the relatively neglected dimensions of job creation. These among others include skill development for meeting the potential demand for rewarding jobs, especially in export sectors and overseas migration. 

Trying to bring a sea-change in the job scenario will call for a medium- to long-term strategy. The fact that such job creation has to be in the productive sectors can hardly be argued. Experts have long been emphasising that Bangladesh must identify potential high-employment generating avenues to lessen the burden on a few labour-intensive sectors such as the readymade garment and agriculture. However, it remains to be said that job creation is not an isolated affair: it takes the whole economy to create jobs.

It is often held that for a country like Bangladesh the majority of the new jobs should come from the manufacturing sector. While manufacturing for domestic needs and exports is one aspect, the other with high potential could be manufacturing for overseas companies.

To rise up to embrace the opportunity, it is crucial that there are newer avenues in the country for the manufacturing sector with job creation potential similar to RMG.

Rough estimates suggest that at present 22 per cent of the country's work force is employed in the formal sector, while the rest is absorbed in informal sectors where agriculture is still playing a predominant role, but unfortunately resulting in low productivity and low-income earnings. Although the manufacturing sector is often recognised as a prospective source for job-creation, agriculture and a host of agro-related sectors including poultry, fisheries and livestock must not be undermined as promising areas capable of absorbing an increased number of workforce in the days to come. Due to the pandemic-induced circumstances, farm jobs, especially those related to the sub-sectors have witnessed a drastic fall. In order to overcome the situation, the government has to come up with a medium- to long-term plan aimed at not only restoring the status quo but also improving the overall structure including their productivity, value chain and marketing for both domestic and export consumption. 

There is a general perception that agriculture is an over-saturated sector in the country with little scope to absorb additional manpower. But this does not seem to hold good for the simple reason that seeking a labour-intensive manufacturing sector as an alternative to agriculture is not a ready solution that can be materialised in the short run. 

What is important is to increase the productivity of the overall agriculture sector by way of value addition - agro-processing for example, which while providing higher returns can, in turn, fetch relatively higher wages. On the other hand, manufacturing sector has its own limitations as employment generator as it is becoming less labour-intensive and more skill-dependent due to the increasing introduction of newer technologies. The focus for job creation should thus take into account both the sectors.


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