Worldwide, more than one in six young people have stopped working since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to International Labour Organisation (ILO) report. They are being excessively affected by the pandemic and the rapid increase in youth unemployment seen since February is affecting young women more than young men. The pandemic is dealing a severe blow to employability of Bangladesh's vulnerable young population.
However, in view of the global population growth, we would be left with little options while meeting the higher demand for food and other consumptions. We may try to raise food production by cultivating unused land or increasing crop intensity -- both at the cost of environmental disaster. So, the bottom line is, if we want a better life free from diseases and with proper access to food and nutrition, we have to keep an optimum size of population.
Despite being blessed with 60 per cent working age population, the Bangladesh youth are generally deprived of access to resources ? income, nutrient food, proper education, health care, rights in khas land, forest, water bodies and employment. So, their thoughts on life, mutual respect, aspirations, completeness of life, emotional resources, and social inclusion are not functioning, especially for dealing with disaster management and environmental protection.
The young generation cannot be a contributing partner in society due to lack of access to resources. Poverty, as we understand by income and consumption, has come down from 55.7 per cent in 1985-86 to 31.5 per cent in 2010 and 22 per cent in recent years. But the yardsticks for measuring poverty are changing and the Covid-19 pandemic is reshaping various dimensions of poverty relating to income, access to food, joblessness, housing, healthcare, lack of children's education, landlessness, poverty of slum dwellers and haor and baor people, and marginal people in the country.
If we consider real income, land ownership, ownership of black money and population dynamics for measuring people's economic status, some 105 million out of over 160 million people are poor. If we take into account price hike and low unemployment, the rate might stand at 83 per cent.
The situational imperatives of 'youth poverty' are making them powerless, isolated, hopeless, helpless and weak. The rural and urban youth from the middle class, and extreme and hardcore poor families are being compelled to acclimatise with health shocks such as Covid-19, cancer, kidney damage, liver diseases and natural shocks such as river erosion, floods, cyclone and environmental crisis.
It's time to ensure healthcare facilities, economic opportunities, social facilities, guarantee of transparency and protective security of the young generation. Otherwise, the entire development process would be uncertain for them. We should employ homegrown development philosophies - incentives to the marginal people, negative environmental externality, proper distribution system, improving healthcare system and social protection.
If we really want to empower the youth, it is essential to work out strategies for utilising resources - land, water bodies, forest and human resources. It's a matter of politico-economic decision on how to resolve health crisis, poverty, distress, inequality, and deprivation of the young generation. Unless useful steps are taken to improve the youth status, the impact of covonavirus could be with us for decades. If their unique talents and youthful energy are sidelined due to lack of opportunities or skills, it would be hard to rebuild the post-pandemic economy and their future would be at stake.
Shishir Reza is an environmental analyst and associate member at Bangladesh Economic Association. [email protected]