About one-third of young men and women have left the path of education to support their families as the pandemic has weakened their economic strength, according to Citizen's Platform for SDG, Bangladesh.
In a survey conducted between 18 October and 27 October, about 13% of female respondents and 32% of male respondents said they had to give up their studies and engage in income-generating activities amid this pandemic.
Around 8% of the women surveyed said they dropped out of their educational institutions only to get married, as per the findings which were made public on Sunday through a virtual dialogue on "Covid-19 and Bangladesh: A youth Agenda for Recovery."
Towfiqul Islam Khan, senior research fellow at the Centre for Policy Dialogue, chaired the event.
As schools, colleges and universities have been shut since 17 March to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, access to education has shrunk for the disadvantaged youth both in rural and urban areas.
While classes are being conducted online, 58% of 1,163 respondents said they were neither participating in online education, nor in any training programmes.
They are falling behind because they have limited or no access to digital equipment like a smartphone or laptop. They also cited the high cost of internet services.
Without education and training, they will face challenges in finding decent jobs and income opportunities while the economy rebounds.
Against this backdrop, the youth are growing concerned over the scope of earning in the future.
About 53% of urban youths are depressed over their future prospects of employment while that number is 67% in rural areas.
A total 80% of the respondents looking for jobs said a monthly unemployment benefit of Tk5,000 would have helped them. Almost 80% of them said they have not received any government support.
Support from non-governmental organisations was also inadequate as 70% said they did not receive any assistance from them.
The youth constitutes one-third of the entire population of the country. To get demographic dividends, the speakers said the government should focus on educating the youth and preparing them through skill development training for the post-Covid-19 job market inside the country and overseas.
Lawmaker Shameem Haider Patwary, also a member of the Standing Committee on the Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs, was present at the programme as a special guest.
He said the young men and women should be given a cash incentive to attend training programmes.
The government should work in partnership with private organisations to include the youth in a skills development programme.
The flow of cash will boost the market economy while training the youth's productivity, the lawmaker said, adding that the current rise in dropout rates and economic hardship will lead to more social crimes.