The country has already entered the territory of 7-plus annual economic growth rate. But commensurate employment creation has not taken place.
The Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) has released the data of the Labour Force Survey (LFS) 2015-16 this week. It shows that about 1.4 million new jobs have been created in two and half years, between 2013 and 2015-16, compared to about 4.0 million new jobs between 2010 and 2013, as per the LFS-2013.
Thus, total number of newly created jobs stand at 5.4 million in five and half years (2010-2016H1). It coincides with the implementation period of the Sixth Five Year Plan (6FYP) when 9.2 million new jobs were projected to be created. The latest BBS data clearly show that employment generation target of the 6FYP was not achieved.
During the period of 6FYP, the projected average 7.2 per cent growth rate of the economy was also not achieved. The annual average gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate was 6.2 per cent during 2011-2015.
Now, according to the BBS, 6.2 per cent average growth rate of the economy has created 1.1 million new jobs annually against the target of 1.84 million jobs. However, if GDP growth rate of 1.0 per cent should create 0.25 million jobs, as per the estimation of the planning commission, then GDP growth rate of 6.2 per cent should have generated 1.55 million new jobs annually. So, in five years, some 7.75 million new jobs should have been created. But BBS data show that there is a gap of at least 2.0 million new jobs which indicates that growth is not creating sufficient number of jobs.
According to the previous labour force surveys, during 2005-06 and 2010, some 6.7 million additional jobs were generated when annual average growth rate was 6.07 per cent. It means, annually job creation during the period was 1.34 million.
If output grows faster than employment, it indicates rise of labour productivity. Technological progress in some sectors may be one reason. Another reason is growth-enhancing structural change in the economy. It means, the relatively productive sectors expand their shares in national employment at the expense of other sectors. What is happening in Bangladesh is difficult to say due to lack of detailed data and comprehensive analysis.
On broad sectoral basis, agriculture is the main source of jobs in the country. Employment in the service sector is also growing. Compared to these two broader sectors, employment generation in the industrial sector is low, only 20.5 per cent while the sector contributes 32.50 per cent of GDP.
The LFS reveals that currently only 2.6 million people are unemployed in the country. Rate of unemployed people declined marginally to 4.2 per cent at the end of June, 2016 from 4.3 per cent at the end of December, 2013. But the number of unemployed people has been shown unchanged as 2.6 million in 2013. Such figures create a riddle.
The LFS does not give any clear explanation about the employment and unemployment trends. Its three-page Summary, made available to the media, is misleading and not a detailed one, unlike the previous survey. BBS is yet to make the full report public. This may give raise to speculations about data manipulation.