Demographic dividend isn't the cause of euphoria of a youth who is trying to build life. The use of the jargon shows how the country's development practitioners and foreign partners looked at the young population for utilising them in implementing projects and serving various sectors. Maybe, it's a dominant development approach.
Growing with the fear of population explosion in the 1970s and 1980s, we discovered almost suddenly in the subsequent decades, that the youth bulge could be a blessing for national development if policies and initiatives were taken to make most of it.
In the past one decade, all stakeholders have, knowingly or unknowingly, hyped the term 'demographic dividend', only to secure its visibility in development literature, more than in concrete initiatives and real-life progress.
Statistics of massive graduate unemployment during the period didn't indicate that the nation has managed to draw the dividend. Two major employment sectors - garment and foreign remittances - started giving fruits much before the talks of demographic dividend.
And the pandemic has changed the whole game. Availability of workforce may not be considered an advantage, at least for the time being, rather than prove a burden on the state when the system is not attuned to the concept of welfare.
Some other countries are making a post-pandemic game plan for recovery through investment targeting job creation. In our case, the stimulus packages appear to be more of survival and spoon-feeding, than eying new entrepreneurship and innovations which eventually result in job-creation and shared progress.
What will the youths - who are now in high schools and universities or dropouts and out-of-school children - do once the Covid-19 departs?
After so much of evolution, society doesn't do what it's supposed to: Offering protection to all in times they need most. Studies based on random sampling suggest more people lose livelihoods and become poor during the pandemic but the story of each household at a time of protracted crisis like this remains unknown to those who think they decide their fate.
The generation, which is aged between 16 and 30 years, is set to lose not just 3-4 years but face an uncertain job market where both employers and jobseekers may remain perplexed about the next tasks.
Of course it's a historic moment when people need to reread their very surroundings and the outside world to understand the upcoming trends to be set by themselves.
If there is a single sector in Bangladesh that needs to be focused for overcoming the post-pandemic challenges and attaining momentum in the future progress, it's education. Ideally, it's neither any commodity, nor is it meant for jobs, but knowledge is universally so powerful and useful that the pandemic couldn't diminish its utility and its utility for jobs as well can't be ignored.
Unfortunately, the education along with whatever skills the current jobseekers and students are given may prove to be largely ineffective. In such circumstances, search for knowledge, definitely new and unique, should be a political call to action. The generation, now at stake, may find the potential vacuum as the scope to bring changes for improvement in life and system of governance.
However, the proponents of the demographic dividend, too, need to feel the urgency of presenting wisdom not to market development with a one-eyed view, without engagement of the people. The commoners, too, would earn their own living, should there be scope to do so. Unless enough opportunities are created through planning in advance and enough initiatives and investments made, unemployment may turn into a social crisis.