Experts have proposed introducing youth allowance in the next financial year's budget under social security for unemployed youth who lost their jobs due to the Covid-19 epidemic.
They have also emphasised the effective participation of the youth community at the national and local levels and building the required infrastructure to ensure the implementation and accountability of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).
Although the youth at the national and local level was considered an important part of implementation and accountability in Sustainable Development Agenda-2030, it has not been implemented, said participants in a virtual dialogue titled "Accountability in Implementing SDG: Local Perspectives and Youth Society".
Local-level government representatives, government officials, various youth organisations, youth representatives, NGO officials and stakeholders concerned spoke at the dialogue held on Sunday, organised by Citizen's Platform for SDGs, Bangladesh in collaboration with ActionAid Bangladesh.
"The unemployment rate has doubled due to the impact of Covid-19, adding that the educated population has become the most unemployed. In general, one out of every four people is unemployed, but one out of every three 29-year-old people is unemployed. The situation is such that "one who is educated is unemployed," said Dr Debapriya Bhattacharya, founding convenor of the Citizen's Platform for SDGs, Bangladesh.
He said, "Another 10-15% of people in Covid-19 have fallen into poverty and 1.5-2 crore people are at risk of losing their jobs. Every year, 20 lakh people enter the job market, but they have not been able to enter any job in the last two years."
Debapriya added that one-third of the people, who are new poor and at new risk of losing jobs and who joined the job market, are young. As part of government support, it is time to introduce youth allowance in the budget for the next financial year. We have to provide allowances to the youth just like social security.
ActionAid Bangladesh Country Director Farah Kabir said, "Youth participation is very important in sustainable development. The government has twice conducted a Voluntary National Review (VNR) but has not been able to involve young and marginalised youth there. In 2020, it may not have happened due to Covid-19, but in the future, VLR will be reviewed where young men and women have to be involved."
Mentioning that a large part of the population is young, Farah Kabir called on the government to take policy-making steps to better connect them.
Highlighting various plans of the government for skill development of youth, Director General of the Department of Youth Development Azharul Islam Khan said that the government is implementing various projects for the development of marginalised youth. There are training facilities too but it has been postponed due to Covid-19. If the Covid-19 situation improves, training will resume.
He said that the Department of Youth Development has imparted various training to 63.62 lakh youths since its inception and 22 lakh have been engaged in self-employment. The skills of marginalised youth of the country are being developed in institutional and non-institutional processes.
"The eighth five-year plan has set a target of training 16 lakh young men and women in phases. A project has been taken to produce 40,000 trained drivers by 2023. With the Fourth Industrial Revolution in mind, new potential training is being imparted to develop the skills of the youth," he added.
Dr Ramiz Uddin, head of Experimentation, Accelerator Lab, UNDP, said, "Skill development of youth is very important. SDG localisation steps need to be taken to inform them of the policies that are in place for them. In the event of a catastrophe, how they can be utilised need to be planned too."
Advising to take necessary steps to develop the capacity of the youth, Ejaj Ahmad, founder and president of Bangladesh Youth Leadership Centre, said, "Unemployment is swelling in Covid-19. Young people are trained but the output is not reviewed."
He suggested changes in the education system to create skilled human resources.
Emphasising the need to ensure the participation of young people in the output evaluation and decision making of the training and trained youth, Mahmud Hasan, project officer, Governance Cluster, UNDP, Bangladesh, said, "It needs to be evaluated if what we want to achieve is being done or not. The formation of the National Integration Committee and if the participation of the youth has been ensured need to be observed too."
Amiya Papon Chakraborty, General Secretary and Executive Director, Dhrubatara Youth Development Foundation, said, "There is no accurate database of youth. We do not know what the youth are doing after training. The youth policy has not been implemented and even if it is implemented, it is slow."
Rashedul Islam, Director General, Bureau of NGO Affairs, Prime Minister's Office, suggested that government agencies and NGOs work together in coordination to achieve the sustainable development goals.
A lot of work was being done to implement the SDGs but it is not properly exposed due to the government's weakness in presenting those, he added.
The event was moderated by Avro Bhattacharya, joint director, Dialogue and Publicity, Centre for Policy Dialogue.
Citizen Platform researcher Najiba Altaf, who presented the keynote address at the dialogue, said that not only job-oriented skills development but youth-based training at public and private levels, training on ICT and training programmes on youth rights should also be initiated.