The prediction made by the Terminator movies might come true for Bangladesh within the next 21 years. However, the machines are not rising to wipe out mankind, rather to replace them at work.
A recent study jointly conducted by the Access to Information (a2i) project and the International Labour Organization (ILO) found that almost 53.8 lakh jobs are at risk in five key sectors of Bangladesh.
Of the five sectors, the ready-made garment (RMG) industry will suffer the worst blow, as around 27 lakh people might lose jobs to automation.
However, the government on Thursday announced a set of targets to mitigate the human cost of automation, at a national conference on "Skills and Future of Work" held at the Bangabandhu International Conference Center (BICC)
The conference was jointly organised by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), Action Aid Bangladesh and a2i.
One of the targets set by the government include training up 50 lakh migrant workers into a skilled workforce by 2024 to fight the increasing rate of job cuts.
Experts say if Bangladesh sends skilled migrants abroad, they will get decent wages and remittance inflows to the country will also increase as a result.
"The government also set a target to facilitate 5 lakh entrepreneurs, including 1 lakh digital rural entrepreneurs, by 2024, because entrepreneurs can create ample employment opportunities," said Dara Johnston, OIC deputy representative at Unicef Bangladesh.
Speakers at the event said that the objectives of the targets set by the government are to find out the existing skills gap among the Bangladeshi workforce and determine interventions to mitigate this gap.
Furthermore, achieving the targets will promote decent work in the informal sector through apprenticeships, explore scopes of developing an entrepreneurial mindset among the youth, and to develop a framework to meet the skills gap generated due to the impact of automation.
Asad-Uz-Zaman, a policy specialist of a2i, said, "Our industries need to come forward to help the government to achieve these goals. As per the law, 20 percent of the workforce of every company must be composed of apprentice workers.
It can be a great way to create employment as well as train freshers. But in our country, nobody follows the law."
Speakers also suggested enhancing private and public institutional capacities, prioritising demand-driven skills development, ensuring apprenticeships, and providing globally recognised certification to migrant workers.
ICT State Minister Zunaid Ahmed Palak said, "Our mind-set should change regarding technical careers, like other developed countries. All parents should allow their children to choose what they really want to be."
Among others, representatives from many public and private training institutions, state ministers of different ministries and policy analysts were also present at the event.