Unemployment among graduates rose in fiscal 2016-17 in a worrying development for a country with a sizeable young demographic.
The rate of unemployment among persons with education of up to tertiary level increased 11.2 percent in fiscal 2016-17 from 9 percent a year earlier, according to the latest Labour Force Survey (LFS) by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS).
Unemployment grew among those with other levels of education as well; only those with no education saw higher demand for jobs, BBS data shows.
“This is a structural mismatch. When we talk to relatives they say there are not enough jobs. But when we talk to entrepreneurs they say where are the people for hire?” said Zahid Hussain, lead economist of the World Bank's Dhaka office.
It shows that the quality of education from the existing system does not match the requirements of the job market, he said.
The rate of unemployment has increased at a time when higher numbers of graduates are coming out of universities and the economy is registering steady growth.
Some 4.55 lakh students graduated from public universities in 2015, up 8 percent from a year earlier, according to Bangladesh Education Statistics 2016.
“If you don't use your demographic dividend, the youth can go on to become a liability for the nation,” Hussain said.
Demographic dividend is the economic growth potential that can result from shifts in a population's age structure, mainly when the share of the working age population (15 to 64) is larger than the non-working age share of the population (14 and younger, and 65 and older).
The youth labour force (15 to 29) now stands at 2 crore.
The Centre for Policy Dialogue also noted the rising unemployment rate among the relatively more educated labour force, particularly among the educated.
On the other side, a high number of foreigners work here in various industrial sectors, including textile and garments, owing to a lack of technical skills of locally available labour force, it said.
No actual data is available on the number of foreigners working in the country as many come as tourists and work here without taking permits.
In 2016, $2.01 billion of remittance was sent from Bangladesh to other countries, according to the Washington-based think tank Pew Research Centre.
The highest amount was sent to China ($947 million), followed by Indonesia, Malaysia and India during the year.
The National Board of Revenue has tax record of 10,000-12,000 foreigners, said a senior official. Employers have to hire foreigners for dearth of personnel with the requisite technical and managerial skills, said Anwar-ul Alam Chowdhury, chairman of Evince Group, an apparel and textile company.
“We have to employ foreigners to enhance competitiveness and develop the skills of our workforce,” he added.
No one wants to hire from abroad if qualified people can be hired from local talent pool, said Md Siddiqur Rahman, president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association. “Unemployment among the educated people will remain if we continue to maintain the traditional view of having BBA and MBA degrees,” he said, adding that more people with technical and vocational education are needed.
Both of them suggested building an education system based on the needs of various sectors of the economy.
The textile sector will need 175,000 persons with technical skills by 2021, said the chief of Evince Group, which hires 7,500 people. Of them, 30,000-35,000 could be met through the existing educational institutions.
Chowdhury went on to cite India as a template for Bangladesh to follow to address the problem.
The neighbouring country has opened a human resource ministry and assessed the human resource requirement for existing and potential industrial sectors. The human resource ministry also shared the requirement with the education ministry. “This current situation could have been averted had Bangladesh taken up such a strategy. This should be done. And if we can develop our educational system based on the requirement of industries, joblessness rate will decline.”