The Covid-19 pandemic has brought changes to global economic and employment conditions that will entail technological adaptation, digital data literacy plus innovative and modern skills, speakers said at a webinar on Saturday.
They recommended reskilling, upskilling and providing adequate soft skills to cope with future employment demands.
The recommendations came at a virtual discussion titled "New Jobs and Skills for Future Business" arranged by the Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI).
DCCI senior Vice-President NKA Mobin, FCA, FCS chaired the event.
DCCI president Shams Mahmud delivered the welcome address at the event, saying with 62.7% of the population of working age, Bangladesh has a demographic dividend to leverage accelerated economic growth.
M Masrur Reaz, chairman, Policy Exchange, presented the keynote paper at the event.
He said about 2.2 million new jobs are required per year. Of the 103 million people who form the working age population, only 60 million are employed.
Reaz said not just growth, but jobs with intensive growth, underpinned by strong structural and spatial transformation, are still a challenge.
According to the policy expert, the job creation rate is slowing down sharply, with an annual rate of job creation falling from 3.1% (2003-10) to 1.8% (2010-16) which is below the labour force growth rate. Ready-made garment (RMG) job creation has come to a halt and the pace of diversification has slowed too.
The rise in using labour-saving technologies in apparel factories is likely to take over around 10 lakh jobs in the country by 2025 – the closing year of the eighth Five Year Plan (8FYP).
Digital reality technologies are helping workers transcend the limitations of distance, he said.
Due to the pandemic, global growth fell to -4.4% in 2020 and 50% of global SMEs are facing challenges to survive while lower middle-income countries in the world are hard hit by the pandemic leading to 240 million jobs lost in the second quarter of 2020, read the keynote paper.
According to the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS) about 13% of all employment was lost due to Covid-19 in Bangladesh, but following the current new normal, 3.1 million new jobs may be created by 2021, observed the policy expert.
Md Ashadul Islam, senior secretary, Financial Institutions Division, Ministry of Finance, joined the webinar as its chief guest.
Meanwhile, Dulal Krishna Saha, secretary and executive chairman, National Skills Development Authority; Sudipto Mukerjee, Resident Representative, UNDP Bangladesh; Zaki Uz Zaman, country representative, UNIDO; Tuomo Poutiainen, Country Director, ILO in Bangladesh attended as special guests.
Md Ashadul Islam said the government tried to sustain economic activities during the Covid-19 situation.
"We are still going through the pandemic. Growth without employment generation will not be sustainable; the government is prioritising the right skills and inevitable technology adaptation is now the order of the day," he added.
Dulal Krishna Saha, secretary and executive chairman, National Skills Development Authority, said: "We need hard, soft and human skills. NGOs and the private sector should come forward to enhance skill development programmes."
Resident Representative Sudipto Mukerjee of UNDP Bangladesh called for inclusive and equal growth.
He said, "Soft skills need to be adopted," stressing the need for vocational and technical training as well as quality of education.
Sudipto termed the Bangladeshi youth very creative and called for digital literacy.
In his speech, Zaki Uz Zaman, country representative, UNIDO said Bangladeshi youths are very creative and they should explore the potential of the global block-chain arena.
ILO Bangladesh Country Director Tuomo Poutiainen underscored the need for a framed job strategy. To seize the future job market, bold action is necessary to be taken to generate a skilled workforce.
Grameenphone CEO Yasir Azman said: "Our youth has potential. We need to ignite and encourage it to face the challenges of future robotics."
Marianne Oehlers, program manager, Generation Unlimited, UNICEF Bangladesh, described connectivity between secondary education and training as very important.
Data connectivity, ICT knowledge and adequate training for reskilling and upskilling are some of the areas all should work together on, she recommended.