Bangladesh should find ways to create entrepreneurs that will help absorb the two million people joining the workforce a year, said an expert.
“Entrepreneurship development is extremely important for a country to create employment,” said Eva Majurin, an enterprise development specialist of the International Labour Organisation or ILO.
She said entrepreneurship is one of the biggest creators of jobs in the world, and by far, two-thirds of new jobs come from micro, small and medium enterprises.
Majurin was recently in Dhaka to support the entrepreneurship development activities that are taking place in Bangladesh.
The ILO is involved in a programme called “Start & Improve Your Business” or SIYB, a management-training effort of the ILO with a focus on starting and improving small businesses as a strategy for creating more and better employment in developing economies and economies in transition.
With an estimated outreach of seven million trainees, a continuously growing network of more than 17,000 trainers and 200 master trainers in 2,500 partner institutions, SIYB is one of the biggest global management training systems used for micro- and small enterprises.
The ILO introduced the programme in Bangladesh last year. Globally, it has been introduced in over 100 countries.
Under the SIYB programme, 16 trainers have already been trained to create a pool of trainers in Bangladesh, who in turn have trained 200 beneficiaries, more than 80 percent of whom are women.
The ILO country office plans to add another 200 beneficiaries this year.
Another 24 trainers will be trained by the end of this year, said Francis Dilip De Silva, a senior specialist at ILO Bangladesh.
Majurin hopes some forms of strategy can be developed in Bangladesh where this training, in conjunction with other supports being planned in a comprehensive way, can help the ILO take it to a big scale and deliver the support needed for high impact.
Majurin said the programme helps entrepreneurs set up a business and to run it better; for existing entrepreneurs, it helps manage the business properly, in the areas of marketing and accounting and to expand their operations.
In terms of job creation, 30 percent of the trainees have gone on to start their business, which in turn created three jobs on average.
The rate of starting a business after taking up trainings varies from country to country. In China, the programme has up to 80 percent start-up rate; in India, it is about 50 percent.
The UN organisation has employed 15,000 trainers for the field-level implementation programme.
The ILO aims to support the enterprise and entrepreneurship development activities in Bangladesh.
Majurin said SMEs face almost similar difficulties in all countries -- these include access to finance, skills, access to power and registration procedures.
“That is why the SYIB programme has been shown to work in different regions where it has been implemented. A lack of management skills is quite a universal constraint among entrepreneurs.”
Majurin said women face very different types of constraints, including accessing employment, lower literacy levels and access to finance.
As a result, the women's labour force participation rate is lower in Bangladesh as well as in other South Asian nations, compared with men.
“Entrepreneurship is actually a way for women to overcome the social barriers, improve their economic situation and become empowered,” Majurin said.
“Of course, women also need specific types of support. Often women are starting from an unequal background, and they do not have the same access to education and other opportunities or finance.”
“So, the support measures for women might be different from those for men. Entrepreneurship is an area where women have great potential where they can often combine this type of work with their traditional role.”
Majurin said by empowering women economically, a country can change things such as children's nutrition, health status and education.
“By empowering women economically, we can advance development more broadly.”
She said women's entrepreneurship looks very promising in Bangladesh right now: a lot of work has been done here. Bangladesh has been a pioneer in microfinance, especially targeting women.
“The commitment is there. There are a number of training initiatives and support programmes. I think the impact of those programmes must be looked at and efforts needed to be coordinated so we can make sure that women have access to quality support and the required skills.”
Bangladesh does not have an entrepreneurship development strategy, and the ILO is working with the government and the private sector to develop one, said Silva.