Bangladesh Should Utilize the Opportunities of Demographic Dividend

Hiren Pandit: As seen in the final report published by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS), the population of the country is 169.8 million, 28 percent of which consists of youth, that is 47.4 million. About 62 percent of the total population is of working age, aged between 15 to 59 years, and 105 million. Youth comprising such a huge percentage of the total population would be considered a huge opportunity for any country if every working-age citizen of that country can be provided with suitable jobs. Especially, if youths entering the job market every year can be put to proper use.
Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan have been able to achieve astonishing economic development by taking advantage of demographic dividends in the 60s and 90s of the last century. Experts believe it’s high time for Bangladesh to utilize this demographic advantage for this won’t stick around for long. With the rise in life expectancy, the number of senior citizens will go up as well. The question is how this huge number of youths can be put to use. The country’s young community must be trained in keeping with current market demands. Youths have to put emphasis on digital technology and technical education to adapt to the job market keeping the Fourth Industrial Revolution ahead.
At present working-age labor force in the country exceeds the non-working-age labor force. But we won’t be able to utilize that if we can’t provide these youths with suitable jobs as per their demand. In Bangladesh, the literacy rate has increased and the number of educated youths is a lot higher as well. While 2.2 to 2.3 million youths are entering the job market every year, we are failing to provide them with jobs as per demand. According to International Labor Organization (ILO) data, Bangladesh has the second highest educated unemployment rate in the Asia-Pacific region.
Government surveys also show that the unemployment rate among educated youth is higher than that among uneducated youth. As much as 29.8 percent of youth with secondary education are unemployed while this rate among youths not having secondary education is 13.4 percent. If we can utilize this vast number of youth, then Bangladesh too can wish for development like Singapore, Taiwan and South Korea. If we can’t provide this massive young community, a major portion of whom are educated, with suitable employment, it will not only hinder the country’s development but also make the youth frustrated. A section of the youth is already engaged in crime and drugs, which is extremely alarming for the country. So, the major reason for not being able to utilize the demographic dividend is our tertiary education system, which is failing to meet the demand of the era. However late, the government has taken the initiative of making the education system up to date by identifying its weaknesses. It’s unwarranted that educated youths of the country won’t get jobs and skilled employees have to be brought in from abroad to run industries, trade and commerce. What are we teaching then?
The government’s main target is to create employment for youths. But how much of that goal will be achieved and within how much time, the future of the youth as well as Bangladesh’s overall development and progress will be depending on that. The working population should be employed. Such a situation arises when a country moves towards economic prosperity and women’s education, empowerment and employment increase. Urbanization has a big role to play in this. But it also has some future risks. This can now be seen as good news for Bangladesh. The situation we are in now is ideal. Here it is seen that both the birth rate and the death rate come down. Currently, 65.51 percent of the population in Bangladesh is between 15 and 64 years of age. Experts describe this population as working (demographic dividend). Experts say that economic activities will be more active due to the large population. That is, it is possible to accelerate economic growth by using them. This is positive for Bangladesh in the sense that it can utilize the working population. How the economy of Bangladesh started with just 18 dollars. Two stars behind the change in Bangladesh’s agriculture. If the birth rate continued to rise, it would not be possible to employ the working population. As a result, unemployment took a terrible shape. Experts say that the current level of unemployment in Bangladesh will decrease if the rate of population growth continues to decline.
But in the next seventeen to eighteen years that situation will begin to change. Because then the population over 65 will increase. There will be a favorable environment for Bangladesh till 2038. Then the elderly population will continue to grow. The 2022 census has both positive and negative aspects for Bangladesh. According to the 2022 census, the population aged 65 and above is 5.88 percent. If it reaches seven percent, it is described as an aging society. According to the United Nations population report, the population of Bangladesh will be 204 million by the year 2050 even if the birth rate decreases. The population of Bangladesh will remain stable from 2057 to 2064. Because then the birth and death rates will be equal. The total population will continue to decrease slowly.
The number of educated unemployed in the country is increasing day by day. According to the information of the Ministry of Labor and Employment, the number of men and women with low education and uneducated unemployed in the country is 26 lakh 77 thousand. As the rate of attaining higher education in the country is increasing, the increase in the unemployment rate among the highly educated is becoming casual news. Higher education no longer guarantees employment. The more educated young people are, the more likely they are to be unemployed. Due to the Covid pandemic, the number of unemployed people in the world this year will be around 207 million. This number is 20 million more than 2019, the year before the start of the Covid pandemic. This information has been informed in the recently published report of the ‘World Employment and Social Outlook-Trends 2022’.
In Bangladesh, 16 to 18 years are spent in a student’s life to complete higher education i.e. graduation or post-graduation. In some cases, it takes more than three-four years due to session congestion. After that, I had to find a job to support my family. Frustration among highly educated youth about finding satisfactory jobs is increasing. No updated statistics are available on the number of educated unemployed in Bangladesh. However, its number is not very low, it can be seen during the recruitment of manpower in various organizations. Be it public or private. The Bangladesh Labor Force-Related Survey defines unemployment as a person aged 15 years and above who is not working or has not found work despite actively seeking or being ready for work. A recent study by the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS) shows that 66 percent, i.e. two-thirds, of students who pass out from a reputed university are unemployed. Only 21 percent of the students of those institutions get jobs after graduation or post-graduation and only 3 percent are self-employed. Two years ago, the World Bank conducted a survey of university students. It also found that 46 percent of graduates who have been looking for a job for three years are unemployed. According to the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) latest labor force, the unemployment rate is high among educated people in the country, where 47 percent of educated people are unemployed. On the other hand, 2 million people are joining the labor force in the country every year. But employment is not happening in that proportion. As a result, a large part remains unemployed.
According to the London-based Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), Bangladesh has the highest rate of educated unemployment. 47 out of every 100 graduates are unemployed. In other words, one out of every two people’s names is included in the unemployment register. According to a survey by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a World Bank Group organization, 37 percent of people working in micro, small and medium enterprises in the country have become unemployed due to Covid-19. About 20 percent of Bangladesh’s gross domestic product (GDP) comes from these micro, small and medium enterprises. The ILO says that the young generation is most at risk due to the corona epidemic. 24.8 percent of 15 to 24-year-olds are unemployed. The youth unemployment rate has doubled due to Corona. According to ILO, 1.675 thousand youth lost their jobs in Bangladesh due to Corona.
The country currently has increased job opportunities in the manufacturing and agricultural sectors. In both sectors, there are less job opportunities for graduates or post-graduates. Technically skilled people are in high demand in these two sectors. But the educated youth who are in the job market, do not want to involve themselves in these jobs. Apart from this, business and trade have been greatly affected due to Corona. As a result, the educated youth who were engaged in self-employment through small businesses have also become unemployed. The government incentives did not reach the hands of these small entrepreneurs. As a result, many have been forced to close their businesses. The number of educated unemployed has also increased. This is the third reason for increasing educated unemployment in the country.
Our education system is unable to meet the needs of society and the state. Even though the policymakers of government have acknowledged this in their speeches and statements, they do not seem to take any effective role in how to make that education up to date. Everything is going on as usual. Public universities are adding subjects that have nothing to do with the job market. In that case, we need to rethink higher education. What is the use of education that is not in demand in the job market? This waste cannot be accepted in the name of higher education. It should be remembered that not only the family invests in a graduate or post-graduate degree holder, but the state also invests. Therefore, the creation of highly educated unemployed means a great loss to the state.
We feel that, without strengthening the foundation and quality of primary and secondary education, one after another higher education institutions are being built – which, despite issuing certificates, are failing to produce skilled manpower. And for this reason, foreign workers are being employed with high salaries in many sectors despite the unemployment of the educated population in Bangladesh. Their argument is that there is a shortage of skilled manpower in the country. It means that our education system is not able to meet the demand of time. As a result, the concerned should emphasize the end of this situation. The demographic dividend should be harnessed through population growth.
Hiren Pandit is a columnist and a researcher.

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