In the midst of an unprecedented change during Covid-19, youth unemployment will be a major problem for Bangladesh over the next few years because of disrupted economic activities caused by the pandemic. Now it is assumed that if the containment is prolonged for more than six months, youth unemployment rate may go up to 20.5 per cent in 2020 from 11.90 per cent in 2019.
The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has changed businesses and consumer demands for goods and services. Today's new normal for businesses includes work-from-home difficulties, social distancing, self-isolation, disrupted supply chains, uncertain compliance obligations and new government programmes etc. Therefore, re-skilling of youths (the age group between 15-24 years) can be the best way to reducing the risk of the unemployed. In 2019, the ILO Global Commission on the Future of Work stated, "Today's skills will not match the jobs of tomorrow, and newly acquired skills may quickly become obsolete." The commission strongly focused on re-skilling and up-skilling. What is re-skilling? Basically, re-skilling refers to successful transition into a new job or the ability to successfully take on new tasks. It is not only to learn job-specific technical skills but also to acquire core competencies such as adaptability, communication, teamwork, and creativity.
In 2019, many of the world's largest employers have taken initiatives to help their workforces build new skills. Amazon announced a $700 million fund to re-skill 100,000 workers. Orange, the French telecoms giant, announced an investment of €1.5 billion for a similar initiative. In 2020, Microsoft launched an initiative to help 25 million people worldwide acquire the digital skills needed in a Covid-19 economy.
More emphasis on vocational training and skill development programme is needed to respond to this disaster. The government should formulate a new plan for national education, training, retraining and vocational guidance programme that will help to respond to Covid-19 crisis successfully. It should follow three steps to implement re-skilling method of reducing youth unemployment in Bangladesh during the coronavirus pandemic.
Firstly, identification of sectors in which Covid-19 has a significantly negative impact on employment in terms of quantity and quality of jobs. According to the report, aggregate job losses may arise in seven sectors of Bangladesh: agriculture, retail trade, hotels and restaurants, inland transport, construction, textiles and textile products, and other services. These seven sectors may account for 76 per cent of total youth job losses in the country. An effective skills development response may make an important impact on the speed at which sectors recover, and on the extent to which employment is restored.
Secondly, isolation of sectors and occupations in which Covid-19 increases demand for skills. It is true that the pandemic has increased the demand for workers in some areas, for example in manufacture of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) or hygiene products (soap, hand sanitizer) etc. Not all of these increases in employment will be sustained, but some require immediate investment in re-skilling and up-skilling to meet the current and future skills needs. While some sectors will recover more slowly or may not recover, the demand for some goods and services will increase over pre-pandemic levels as economies restart and the pandemic ends or Covid-19 becomes a recurring part of life.
Finally, to find groups of individuals needing training, re-skilling and up-skilling because there will be large groups of individuals whose employment prospects have been damaged by the pandemic. Re-skilling will be an essential part of the policy offerings needed to get them into employment in decent and stable jobs, and to avoid long-term career impediment.
Md. Hafez is assistant professor, School of Business, Ahsanullah University of Science and Technology