- Unemployment rate jumps to 13% from 4.2% in a year
- It may take several years to return to single digit unemployment rate
- Govt stimulus package not directly linked with protecting, creating employment
- A fresh stimulus package designed to protect employment recommended
- 5% tax rebate for private sector recommended to invest in employment generation
Ilias Hossain, from Barguna, completed his post-graduation almost two years ago and since then he has been looking for a job.
Staying in Dhaka, he was trying for a government job, and doing private tuition at the same time.
Failing to secure any public job, he tried for the private sector from early last year, and finally got the job of marketing executive at a reputed company.
But to his bad luck, the pandemic ate up his job when it had scarcely begun.
"Since then, I am searching for another job, but still have not gotten one," said a frustrated Ilias.
It might take several years to make up the loss of jobs created by the coronavirus pandemic, fear experts.
They said unemployment and underemployment were a big issue for Bangladesh even before the beginning of the pandemic, and Covid-19 has made the challenge even bigger.
The country's unemployment has increased by more than three times in a year, jumping to 13% which was 4.2% until 2019.
Unemployment, mostly underemployment, had been rampant in the country over the last few years and the pandemic worked like fuel in the fire, said Dr M Masrur Reaz, chairman of Policy Exchange of Bangladesh, a think tank.
He said it might take several years to meet up the loss as the economy could take at least two to three years to fully recover from the pandemic fallouts.
"The pandemic has drastically decreased jobs mostly in the informal sector, so it will be harder to trace the job-losers and bring them back to work," said Reza.
Besides, expatriates from different countries are coming back making unemployment even larger and even many countries are not taking in new manpower currently, he continued.
Commenting that the government took a good initiative declaring a stimulus package to tackle the crisis, he pointed out that there was a gap as the package is not directly linked with creating employment.
"So, the government has to take the right steps immediately as well as fresh investment also has to be increased for more job openings," added the thinker.
He recommended a fresh stimulus package designed to employment protection.
The MSME sector has to be reinforced through financial assistance as it creates maximum informal employment, he added.
According to the unemployment indicator of the Word Bank, in Bangladesh, the unemployment rate was 4.2% till 2019. And there were 1.38 crore underemployed people in the country till then, as per a study by the General Economics Division (GED) under the planning ministry. And due to Covid-19, the unemployment rate has become around 13%, according to a survey of Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS).
The country's business leaders are also concerned over the alarmingly growing unemployment.
Abul Kasem Khan, former president of Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said, "The private sector which is the biggest employment generator is struggling to tackle the unemployment challenge."
Detailing reasons behind the private sector's failure to protect jobs, he said, "Business for many organisations has fallen drastically, in consequence, owners have been forced to cut costs by decreasing the number of jobs; or, in many cases, shutting down the organisation. Less investment and less cash flow in the country at present are also among the main reasons."
Currently, it is the biggest challenge and the government must cooperate with the private sector to address this challenge, he observed.
"The government can provide a 5% tax rebate, binding a rule that the money has to be invested for employment generation," said Khan, who is also the chairperson of the Business Initiative for Leading Development.
Further 2% tax can be rebated if an organisation recruits 100 new employees, he suggested.
Losing a job is deeply frustrating, which may cause heavy stress, said Dhaka University Psychology Department Professor Mahfuza Khanam, warning that over stress, in most cases, changes one's behavior which may result in domestic violence, family break-up, social unrest, frustration and so on.
Finally, the loser will feel lonely which may lead him to either crime or self-destruction, she added.
Police are also experiencing a rising trend of crimes. In this regard, DMP Deputy Commissioner (media) Md Walid Hossain said although crime is on the rise, the rate is not as much as it was before the beginning of the pandemic.
"A good number of people are facing financial crises; so, according to our estimation, there is a possibility of increased economic crimes.
"Considering this, we are working to tighten security so that economic crime cannot occur," he added.