The world is now struggling to combat the deadly Covid-19 pandemic as the virus has already reached every corner of the globe, though it is hitting at varying speeds and intensities in different regions.
The pandemic brought serious adverse impacts on every sector of the global economy, as well as education, and landed the unemployed youth in serious trouble.
As a developing country, Bangladesh has been fighting to create adequate job opportunities for its people, including the young generation, for long, and has failed to achieve it despite tremendous economic growth in recent years. This has raised questions about the significance of growth for a large section of the population.
Now faced with the Fourth Industrial Revolution, a lot of our manual workers have already started losing their jobs due to increased automation. The Covid-19 has intensified their woes.
Since the outbreak of the pandemic, newspapers have been running headlines that many have already lost their jobs owing to the shutdown or slowdown of economic activities, which caused the young generation to sink into depression. Job seekers – both private and public – are passing their time in severe anxiety.
According to the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) 2019 report, the unemployment rate in Bangladesh was 4.19 percent. Economists have been predicting that the rate will grow in the coming years. According to a World Bank report, one in every three graduates remains unemployed in Bangladesh. Can we imagine the consequences of these unemployed youth after the pandemic?
Emerging technologies, globalisation, and now the Covid-19 pandemic have seismically disrupted labour markets for the youth and their chances of getting good, long-term, and meaningful jobs in our country. Our youth labour market is highly vulnerable to economic cycles, while experts say youth employment is going to be hit more negatively by economic shocks than adult jobs in times of economic downturn.
As a result, many jobs have already vanished, while many young aspirants are nowhere near finding new jobs. According to a recent joint report of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the youth unemployment rate was 11.9 percent in 2019 and is expected to increase to 24.8 percent this year in Asia and the Pacific.
This puts the unemployed youth in deep anxiety and depression, which is causing them to lose behavioural and emotional control. On top of this, many youth are engaged in various forms of drug abuse and some commit suicide out of frusatration over their socio-economic status.
Let us come to the main point of my writing. As we all know, the Bangladesh Civil Service (BCS) nowadays is considered the most preferred and secure job for the youth, regardless of their background, as the country has failed to create secure jobs in other sectors. On December 31, 2019, the Bangladesh Public Service Commission (BPSC) issued the 41st BCS job circular but the preliminary examination remains postponed due to the pandemic.
Meanwhile, the academic life of students is expected to be prolonged and subsequently, students are going to face an acute session jam, thanks to the evolving Covid-19 situation despite educational institutions' initiatives to start online classes. As the deadly virus has been claiming lives worldwide, it has also been putting the youth, who want to build their careers in government jobs - including the BCS, at a disadvantage in terms of age.
According to Section 14 of the BPSC regulations, a general applicant's age limit is 30 for taking part in the BCS examination, and it is 32 years for children and grandchildren of freedom fighters. In this backdrop, government job seekers are worried about the BCS age limit. They are now demanding to increase the age limit, although the demand is nothing new.
Over the years, university students held demonstrations and conducted an advocacy campaign for increasing the age limit. Recently, a writ petition was filed with the High Court in this regard. Moreover, many prospective BCS applicants who have finished their studies would likely not meet the maximum age of eligibility owing the shutdown, to apply for a government job.
Age limit in a government job has remained a debated issue for long. Along with more than 150 countries, India and some other South Asian nations have raised the limit to 35 years for entering government service.
The incumbent government said they would consider relaxing the age limit for applicants, who crossed the threshold during the ongoing shutdown, when the fresh circular is released. But the question about how the government will tackle this crucial matter remains unanswered.
Bangladesh is committed to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 and moving forward to become a developed country by 2041. To that end, the incumbent government is taking significant steps to ensure decent jobs for the youth by creating different job opportunities, including waged jobs and self-employment.
Covid-19 had an acute impact on young minds, which is silent but deadly. They are extremely worried about the job market and crossing the age limit for government jobs.
Under these circumstances, the government should come forward to create a special department under the public service commission to evaluate the unprecedented situation and take appropriate steps in this regard. A reformed BCS recruitment system can be introduced and the age limit can be relaxed, at least for a particular time, to combat this evolving coronavirus situation.
Nowshin Islam is a student at the University of Chattogram.