Demographic dividend does not last forever.
Bangladesh is not on the right track, although it is in a favorable position.
The country is missing the chance to use its demographic dividend.
Working-age population – between 15 and 64 – of the country is now 63 percent.
Failing to connecting the dots in quality education, industry-education system linkage and employment generation, Bangladesh is not getting the most of its capable young population surplus.
To ensure quality education, good health, new jobs and good governance, economists and population experts suggested large-scale investments.
For developing their economies, many countries have got the best out of their demographic dividend.
Up to the next two decades, Bangladesh will have the chance to use its working-age population for accelerating the pace of its economic growth.
The opportunity will die down by 2040. Bangladesh could have to wait for a hundred years for another demographic dividend.
Despite enjoying a good economic health, for last several years, job growth has been the slowest in last two decades.
The sluggish job creation is questioning the development narrative that Bangladesh is now riding on. Experts are also calling this “jobless growth”.
“There is a great demand and supply side gap between the universities and industries in Bangladesh,” said Dr Selim Raihan, executive director, South Asian Network on Economic Modeling (SANEM), “and the country is producing a large educated but jobless group.”
To create a skilled workforce, many countries including the developed ones invested heavily on human resource development – namely education and health– he explained.
Bangladesh generated only 1.4 million jobs between 2013-14 and 2015-16 fiscal years, down from 4 million jobs it had created in the previous three years, according Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics' Labour Force Survey.
“For making the economy grow more,” said Selim, “during the early years of demographic dividend, the government needed to use most of the working-age group people.”
“But it failed.”
Readymade garments, tourism and hospitality do not have much of a skilled workforce. Foreign workforce mostly occupies the mid and top level jobs of these sectors, Selim elaborated.
“To get the most of demographic dividend,” said Dr Mohammad Mainul Islam, a population scientist, “a country needs to work on quality education, good health, creating new jobs and good governance.”
“The government should have a multi-sectoral focus while giving special attention to quality education and health,” he said.
“Education should be job-oriented, not for certificate,” Mainul commented.
The government, he said, has taken some steps in the direction of formulating right policies and designing plans to develop a skilled workforce for reaping the benefit of demographic dividend.
“But it is too late.”
“The demographic dividend usually comes to a country once and continues for 30 to 35 years,” said Professor Shamsul Alam, a member of the Planning Commission.
“To cash in on this special opportunity,” said Shamsul, “we need more investment in education and health.”
For bridging the gap between university and industry, he suggested private sector investment in research and innovation.
Job creation gets priority in the 8th Five Year Plan to increase the country’s economic growth, taking chance of demographic dividend, he elaborated.
“Young people gets priority in our plan now,” said Shamsul.
“We are trying to align this with achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030 and build a developed country by 2041.”
The government allocated a large chunk of the budget for the Ministry of Education and the Department of Youth Development, he said.
Working-age people of 2.7 million remains unused while Bangladesh observes the World Population Day 2019, on Thursday, with the theme “25 years of the ICPD: accelerating the promise”.