The country's job growth did not get impeded too much due to the pandemic. There was a minor setback, but the job sector has already ridden it out.
The government is extensively working to attract domestic and foreign investments. Numerous development works are especially ongoing at the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Shilpa Nagar in Mirsarai, Japan Economic Zone in Araihazar and Matarbari. These economic zones are getting both local and foreign investments even amid the pandemic.
We talk about employment generation all the time. But I do not think the country has a high unemployment rate.
For example, farmers do not get enough agro-workers during the paddy harvesting season. If there had been intensive unemployment, more workers would turn up for farm work. Even industries do not get the required skilled manpower they need. Garments and pharmaceuticals have a crisis in skilled labour.
What the sectors do is they train up staffers after recruitment. Therefore, I do not think the industries, too, have any serious unemployment issues.
We have unemployment among graduates as they all want white-collar jobs. But most of them do not chart out what they would do after graduation. We frequently get jobseekers, many of them being Dhaka University graduates who have majored in History, Persian, Sanskrit or Pali.
There is no doctor or engineer who is jobless. You will get none with vocational or pharmacy training unemployed. It is unacceptable that someone will complete graduation without any career plan and then complain about not getting a job.
The government has formed the National Skill Development Authority. Now what we need to do is pursue vocational training, chart out a career plan and make a career choice. Youths need to figure out their career goals before graduation. And the Skill Development Authority can offer the guidance they need.
Our education system also needs overhauling. Universities should have collaboration with industries. Many universities have already done that, and the teamwork needs to be strengthened and institutionalised.
Freelancing can be a solution for graduates who are still unemployed. The government has arranged identifications and registrations for freelancers.
The country now has 10 lakh freelancers who can work from home by utilising the features of digitisation.
Many graduates are going straight for freelancing after receiving computer training. The ICT ministry offers many skill development schemes and other support to them. Issues related to opening bank accounts for freelancers have been resolved, and more and more youths are opting for the profession.
Another piece of good news is that the Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (Bida) has taken up an initiative to train entrepreneurs countrywide. Already 25,000 at the district-level have received the training, and 4,000 of them have turned into businessmen after managing trade licences. Most of them are graduates.
If each of the new 4,000 entrepreneurs creates two more businessmen, there will be another 8,000 entrepreneurs – which will encourage others.
The government is working towards creating new entrepreneurs and ways of utilising those who have already emerged as self-made entrepreneurs.
Salman F Rahman, Adviser to Prime Minister on Private Sector Industry and Investment, spoke to The Business Standard's Abul Kashem