- Youth unemployment rate is 6 percentage points higher than the overall rate
- 30% working-age population aged 15-29 are not in education, employment or training
The window of opportunity for Bangladesh to reap demographic dividends is projected to close by 2040.
However, the country has still not been able to get the full economic returns from it due to young people's lack of skills and insufficient training for them.
Although the country's economy is supposed to be run by the youths in future, their unemployment rate is 6 percentage points higher than the overall rate.
About 30 percent of the working-age population aged 15-29 are not in education, employment or training (NEET), which is another concern for economic development and social stability.
So, the economists, experts, and policymakers have recommended the government to increase investment in youth development – education and training for young people – to utilise the full benefits of demographic dividend.
They also underscored the need for a separate budgetary allocation for youths by formulating a youth budget.
Such a budget will enable the achievement of inclusive and equitable growth by empowering the youths and increasing their productivity.
Just as there have been specialised budgets such as gender budget, climate budget, and child budget, the present context demands the design and implementation of a youth-centric budget, they said.
These recommendations emerged from the webinar "Youth Budget Framework: An Appraisal," jointly organised by the South Asian Network on Economic Modeling (Sanem) and Action Aid Bangladesh on Saturday.
ActionAid Bangladesh Country Director Farah Kabir presided over the event where Planning Minister MA Mannan was the chief guest.
A separate budgetary framework is required for the young people, MA Mannan said. "The government has the vision to take the country's development to the next level and some exceptional things will have to be done for that.
"The country entered the first phase of the demographic dividend in the early nineties and needs a big push to cash in from its remaining time. A youth-centric budget is required and coordination is also necessary for that," the minister said.
Farah Kabir said youth employment should not be considered as an economic issue only. "Majority of people in the country is now young. Betterment of the youths is both a political and social issue."
Member of Parliament and Young Bangla Convener Nahim Razzaq said at the event, about 22 ministries and divisions of the government are dealing with providing technical education to the youths.
"Although the number of agencies working on it is big, there is a lack of coordination among them."
Coordination among the agencies and quality data are required to develop skilled human resources, Nahim Razzaq said.
"Although the National Skills Development Authority has been set up, it has yet to become effective. And there is a need to set up a youth development cell."
Centre for Policy Dialogue Executive Director Dr Fahmida Khatun said at the event that a lot of young people are not in education, employment and training now.
Failure to bring them to mainstream employment will lead to major social and economic disaster, and large-scale training programmes are required to avoid that.
Dr Fahmida recommended the government to take the right steps to ensure proper education and financing to increase the number of young entrepreneurs.
Dr Abu Eusuf, professor of the Department of Development Studies at the University of Dhaka, said about 3.4 million children are born every year and they will enter into the job market after a certain time.
"The government needs to think about how many of them will get the chance to receive higher education and technical education."
Dr Abu Eusuf also said, there are a lot of unemployed people in the country with low skills, and skilled foreign employees in Bangladesh are taking a lot of money out of here.
"However, there is a labour shortage in many countries. The government should collect data on that and train people with specific skills."
Belayet Hossain Talukder, additional secretary of the Ministry of Education's Secondary and Higher Education Division, said: "The government is spending about Tk30,000 crore on the secondary and higher education. This money is being used for the youths."
"But there is a lack of integration in education, skill, health and human resource development at the national level. So only a higher expense for education could not ensure proper development of the youths."
Ministry of Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment Additional Secretary Md Nazibul Islam said, the government is working to set up Technical Training Center (TTC) at every upazila of the country. "The number of training has increased but not their quality."
Sanem Executive Director and Professor of the Department of Economics at the University of Dhaka Dr Selim Raihan, while explaining the context of the webinar, underscored the need to invest in youths in a planned mechanism to cash in on demographic dividend.
Sanem Senior Research Associate Eshrat Sharmin while delivering the keynote presentation said, "There has not been enough allocation for the new poor and the unemployed. Also, there has not been enough allocation for youth-centric projects or any reference to the mental health issue of the young people in the budget of the current fiscal year."
"The budget does not talk about the mode of reaching out to the poor who lacks digital access and the unemployed in the informal sector. The allocation for the education sector is also insufficient."
"Only 8 percent of the revised annual development programme (ADP) allocation for the fiscal year 2019-20 could be termed as directly youth-oriented," Eshrat said.