Frustration is growing among the country's prospective jobseekers as the scope of employment is not getting sufficiently widened. According to the latest official survey, there are 2.7 million unemployed people in the country. The unemployment rate has slightly changed from 4.3 per cent in 2013 to 4.2 per cent last year though the government created a number of job opportunities over the period.
What is surprising is that the number of jobs rose impressively during 2002-2013 by 1.36 million per year. But it fell to only 0.35 million a year since 2013, according to the survey. In fact, the country failed to create adequate number of jobs despite higher economic growth in recent years, particularly since 2013.
According to the Labour Force Survey, rural areas have 1.82 million unemployed people, more than double the number of those 0.77 million in urban areas. Mention may be made that the country's urban-rural population ratio is 30:70.
Latest report says the government will be able to create only half of the 30 million jobs it has promised to generate by 2030 at the current pace of employment growth. This is nevertheless a disheartening projection for the growing number of youths desperately seeking jobs.
In its election manifesto in 2018, the ruling party had pledged to create the jobs by 2030. But according to the projections of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), 14.9 million jobs might be created at the existing rate of employment growth of 2.4 per cent.
This means, only half of the job creation target will be achieved by 2030, according to a study conducted by the Center for Policy Dialogue.
As defined by the ILO, people who are out of work, want jobs, have actively sought work in the previous four weeks and are available to start work within the next fortnight come under the purview of the unemployed category.
However, analysts say the unemployed population should be higher than what was found in the survey. The definition should be set considering the local context. In Bangladesh, underemployment means those people who work less than 40 hours a week or earn less than the income required to meet their basic needs. Those who work at a lower tier compared to their skills and expertise should also be considered unemployed.
Unlike many western economies where people get social welfare benefits for periods of unemployment, people in Bangladesh are not entitled to such benefits. As such, under-employment situation is quite worse here.
The private sector is supposed to create more employment opportunities than the public sector. But investment in the private sector remains stalled for quite a long time -- one of the major reasons behind the high unemployment rate. It is difficult for the country to achieve 7.0 per cent-plus growth rate when private investment declines as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP).
Official estimates say about 12.2 per cent of the 20 million youths are unemployed in the country. Of them, 7.4 million youths have no scope for education, training or involvement in the employments. A big chunk of them is from marginalised groups in rural areas with no access to various facilities availed by their peers in urban areas. Poor economic condition along with substandard education and skills compared to their peers in urban areas push the marginalised groups further out of the job market.
Some social safety net programmes are playing a role in improving the livelihoods of marginalised communities but those are not sufficient to solve the problems they face. A lack of transparency of state-run service providers is a major concern for slum-dwellers, particularly in respect of their housing issues.
The youths in the marginalised communities can hardly meet the cost of education. The government needs to raise the stipend allocation to help them cover all education-related expenses.
The aforementioned study found that despite fierce competition in the domestic job market, particularly in the low-skilled jobs and low-earning business activities, the desire to work abroad is rather low among the marginalised youth.
Only one-third of the total youth population are interested to go abroad for jobs, perhaps due to limited financial capacity to bear migration-related costs. Besides, students who go to madrashas cannot meet the skill demand of the market because of the traditional educational system.
Analysts stressed the need for need-based education instead of higher education. They called for a change to the mindset about madrasha-based education incorporating modern education to help them compete in the job market.
Criticising the public sector vocational institutes, analysts say their quality is poor due to lack of proper monitoring. Only 14 per cent students in the country receive vocational education, which is very low compared to developed countries.
Experts suggest that other ministries along with the youth and sports ministry should implement programmes for youths in rural areas for skills development. Budgetary allocation should be raised for education and training from the existing 2.0 per cent to at least 4.0 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP).
Investment growth in the manufacturing sector remains low particularly because of the lack of adequate infrastructure, including supply of quality electricity and gas. New investment in the apparel sector, which accounts for 48.3 per cent of the manufacturing sector, has also been slow.
The quality of education is not up to the mark. There is the need for enhancing the quality of higher education with special focus on skills development. The government should also pay serious attention to raising private investment and jobs through budgetary measures in the coming years.