According to the latest labour force survey, at least 4.31 per cent population of Bangladesh are currently unemployed. Such unemployment is challenging our economic growth and sustainability of economic development from every dimension. Government should work out strategies through which demand-driven skills can be developed for the unemployed. They could be trained in skills that are in high demand in other countries so that they can find jobs there as migrant workers/professionals. Also, these people can be trained and inspired to become self-employed by creating entrepreneurial ecosystem inside the country. Either step can contribute to economic growth of the country.
Some of the concurrent skills in demand in foreign countries are in professions like nursing, electricians, technicians, operators, trouble-shooters, designers, sales people, drivers, security personnel, pathologists, dentists, therapists, carpenters, painters, tailors etc. If trained manpower with internationally recognised certificates is exported to other countries, then they will be able to send a greater amount in remittance.
Skills development for new or migrant workers/professionals may not always be enough. The government should also think about the population that is likely to become unemployed or non-productive due to adoption of newer technologies in different sectors. Use of modern machineries in factories is the demand of time for many sectors, in order to remain competitive in the international market. Advanced technology increases productivity, product quality and economies of scale. But it is making many professional positions obsolete and redundant.
For example, typewriter operators or typists were gradually replaced by computer operators when computers came about around the late 1980s and 1990s. Now-a-days every new graduate is capable of typing at considerable speed and accuracy on computers. As a result, typists are no longer found in almost all offices of the country.
Similarly, hundreds of embroidery machine operators were replaced by computer-aided embroidery machines later. In such ways, many other professions are going to be abolished within the next couple of years. This unused manpower would need to be shifted into a different skill-set. Otherwise this will add to the existing unemployed segment hampering economic growth.
But who will bear the cost of this skill-set development through training? The factory owners will not bear this cost, because it is easier for them to replace old employees with new skilled ones at lower salaries. The workers are unable to bear their existing livelihoods. At the same time, they do not understand the importance of acquiring a new skill-set to sustain themselves and their families. Therefore, the government should identify the professions which are under threat and are likely to be abolished in the near future. The people suffering for this transformation should be guided to newer skill-sets with training at affordable or no costs.
Currently, the government is trying to inspire people to become entrepreneurs. While this is commendable, there is considerable work that needs to be done if success is to be achieved on this route.
Besides ensuring ease of doing business, the government should work on the whole value chain of prospective business ventures in a bid to guide unemployed people towards these areas. Without proper government interventions/facilitations, a business cannot remain profitable. The government should create a pro-business environment in prospective sectors. For example, reducing the time taken to issue business licenses and registrations; infrastructure development; capacity building of would be entrepreneurs; providing low cost loans; increasing availability of industrial machineries in local market; ensuring supply of factory land; making raw materials available in local market at competitive prices; providing protection against foreign goods; fixing justified duties; monitoring market mechanism and ensuring effectiveness of stakeholders are some of the steps that the government needs to take to meet this objective.
The government should facilitate qualified mentorship and business incubation services which can be made available for unemployed or those with their jobs under threat from the comfort of their homes or near their houses at justified costs. For example, readymade garment is the top industry contributing the most to Bangladesh economy at present. Besides the factory owners, the government should also get some credit for the success of this sector. The government had provided bonded warehouse, back-to-back letter of credit (LC) facilities, cash incentives, low cost credit facilities, export development fund, Equity and Entrepreneurship Fund (EEF) facility for RMG factories, tax waivers for many years along with other policy supports to this sector. Similar facilities could be offered to other potential sectors so that they remain competitive at home and abroad.
A few business ventures like establishing bakeries, ice-cream factories, jam-jelly and pickles manufacturing, spices factory, oil speller, assembling toys, cafes, stationery shops, dry cleaning, barber shop and many others can be considered by new generation of entrepreneurs. Such services and goods tend to enjoy high demand throughout the year.
Finally, the government, the non-governmental organisations (NGOs), academia, training centres, political parties, policy-makers, development partners and other stakeholders should come forward with their own comprehensive projects that can ensure proper placement of the unemployed.
Md Joynal Abdin is Executive Director, DCCI Business Institute (DBI). Views expressed here are not from the organisation that the author represents.