Dr Khondaker Golam Moazzem, research director, Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), has said the traditional education and training system will contribute to rising disparity in the job market. He questioned the system and advocated an immediate overhaul of it.
Otherwise, the country will be pushed to more income inequality, he warned in an interview conducted by Jahidul Islam for The Business Standard.
Statistically Bangladesh has a low unemployment rate compared to many other countries. Does it reflect the realty?
Although government statistics say 4 percent people in Bangladesh are jobless, in reality the figure is much higher. Educated youths, specifically graduates, are the worst sufferers of joblessness. Nearly 48 percent of them do not have any job.
Currently, demographic dividend is a popular term. But youths, the main group of the age structure, are removed from economic growth potentials in the country due to joblessness.
The major challenges in this regard are education and training. People have a positive sense of government initiatives for education, and they believe the literacy rate is gradually increasing.
But the educational institutions are failing to develop an education-supporting infrastructure and an education-friendly environment. There is a teacher shortage, and specialized teacher shortage is acute. Other teachers are filling in for them very often. This situation is responsible for the fall in the quality of education and so proper education has stumbled.
Apart from this, many teachers lack skills and are not being imparted adequate training. Regional and class discrimination has confined many groups to college level learning, the highest level for them. They are also being deprived of information and communications technology and vocational training.
Job seekers often claim there is not enough work to pursue. Meanwhile, employers say they do not find skilled people to hire. What is the reason for the mismatch?
Both trade and the size of the economy are expanding. Besides, a qualitative change is rapidly coming into business. These require employees with specific sets of skills.
It was possible even ten years ago to accomplish jobs with uneducated labourers, which is quite impossible now.
Skilled people in ICT and technology will dominate jobs in the next decade. Recruiters are no longer interested in people without the bare minimum in terms of skill.
Entrepreneurs often are compelled to hire skilled foreigners for the sake of the business. It is very upsetting that they are taking our money away, while our graduates struggle owing to their low capability. If we fail to develop our manpower, our demand insofar as the workforce is concerned will be in serious trouble.
A large number of youths are not in the job market. They are not even looking for work. Why?
According to the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, the number of 'Not in Education, Employment, or Training', also known as NEET, is around 74 lakh. Women contribute a major portion of the NEET.
Concern grows as the number of NEET women keeps rising alarmingly.It needs to be investigated why they are reluctant about pursuing a job even after belonging to the working age group.
Some social and family barriers are responsible for the NEET women.
For men, the causes are different. After graduating, they begin their job search. After failing time and again, the exhausted youths become dependent on the family.
Is the income hike of a family member or the overall family contributing to joblessness?
To remain jobless and continue was very tough even a decade ago. But increasing family income has slightly contributed to the dependency attitude.
Many remain jobless for years, depending on their family income. I found that NEET was the lowest among the low income families as each member had to do something. The rate remains around 1.12 percent among marginalized families, while it jumps to 9.3 percent among the rich.
The more the income is, the more NEET will be.
The self-employment rate has shown positive growth in recent times. Is it a potential or a weakness for the economy?
Self-employment will be treated positively for the economy if it can meet some requirements.
First of all, self-employment should generate more jobs for others. Secondly, the self-employer should enjoy a good and steady income. And third, the living conditions of employers must maintain a good quality.
But the reality is that most of the self-employed in Bangladesh belong to the informal sector.Their income and workplace safety are substantially low. The picture does not herald any positive news for the economy.
Lack of employment in the formal sector is pushing up jobs in the informal sector. Now the informal sector should be brought under some rules, regulations, recognition and registration. In that way, informal sector workers will be benefited with more income and security.
What are the challenges for the future job market?
If the traditional education and training system do not go through a major overhaul, disparities in the job market will rise, which will lead to inequality in income. Ready-made garments had been contributing to the job market tremendously until automation began to come in.
To minimize the adverse effects of automation, we need to expand the apparel, leather and ICTsectors though diversification and efficiency.