Every one in four young people in Bangladesh is yet to receive any skills development training although the government has set up training centres for them in every district and at upazila level.
Skills development trainings in different subjects are being provided to youths through 111 formal training centres across the country and 498 training centres at the upazila level, according to the finance minister’s budget speech in June.
Some 73.90 lakh or 26.8 percent of the country’s 2.75 crore young people aged 15 to 24 are still not trained or educated, according to the latest census of the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics.
Biru Paksha Paul, a former chief economist of the Bangladesh Bank, said the unemployment rate among the educated youth is higher than those uneducated – a situation that discourages investment in education and training.
“The GDP growth isn’t translating into job creation so people don’t get expected jobs,” he said.
However, if knowledge is not respected, the country’s position in the Knowledge Economy Index of the World Bank will remain in the lowest rung as before, said Paul, currently a professor of economics at the State University of New York at Cortland.
The latest Index shows that Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, and South Korea top the list in Asia and the Pacific with scores of 8 or above out of 10.
Sri Lanka’s score is 3.63, India’s 3.06, Pakistan’s 2.44, and Bangladesh’s 1.49. Any score below 3 is regarded as ‘poor’. The average score in the region was 4.39.
Paul, who has a number of research papers on youth economy, said the knowledge industry is the future for a densely populated country like Bangladesh and it will absorb the highest number of youths. This will also allow the country to reap the demographic dividend.
Demographic dividend refers to the economic growth potential that can result from shifts in a population’s age structure, mainly when the share of the working-age population is larger than those who are not working.
At present, more than 65 percent of the population in Bangladesh belong to the working age group aged between 15 and 64.
However, the uneducated and untrained youths are a cause for concern as they will dent the development potential of the country, experts warned.
“So, the government should work on this segment of the youth,” Paul said.
Rashid Mia, a young person from Kurigram who has received no training in his life, said his father died when he was 11, so he had to go to work with his mother to make a living.
As a result, he dropped out from school when he was in grade IV and started working at a brick field. Later, he became a rickshaw-puller in Rowmari upazila. He earns Tk 4,000 to Tk 5,000 per month at present.
The story of 10 such youths who talked to The Daily Star is almost the same.
They went to work with their parents after being dropped out of schools either because of poverty or their parents’ belief that education is not the key to get a good job.
After leaving schools, they worked at labour-intensive sectors, toiling in farm land, pulling rickshaws and making and breaking bricks. Most of such youths live below the poverty line owing to lower income.
“Day labour is mostly seasonal, so we have to wait for a long time to get a work. But we don’t get them all the time,” said Abdul Karim, another youth from the same district.
He has come to realise that if he participates in a training programme and increases efficiency, he will get a job and earn more. However, he doesn’t know how to get trained and what training will suit him.
According to the BBS report, of the total untrained and uneducated youth, about 82 percent are female and the rest are male. Most of the females live in rural areas who were either married at a young age or primary school drop-outs, experts said. Taslima Begum, an uneducated and untrained housewife, said she received schooling up to grade IV before eve-teasing bound her to leave school.
After a few years, she was married that ended her dream of receiving education and training.
About the untrained and uneducated youth female, economists said if one segment of the population remains untrained, they will hurt the economic potential of the country. Young women can participate in the labour force even staying at home, but to allow them do so, the government and the private sector would need to take up an initiative to train them and prepare them for the job market.
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is helping the country to develop the skills of the growing young population. “Skills development of the youth is an important way to bring them to the mainstream job market,” said Manmohan Parkash, country director of the Manila-based development lender, during an interview recently.
Farouq Ahmed, director general for youth development at the youth and sports ministry, said the government is providing training to youths who want to work. “In order to reach the goal, we are providing training to them in all districts. The training programme is being enhanced gradually,” he added.