Foregoing the benefits of demographic dividend
Since 2007, Bangladesh has had more people of working age than non-working, known as demographic dividend. All indicators, however, show that we have failed to accommodate the large numbers of people willing to work into the workforce, let alone benefit from our demographic dividend. This is a huge failure on our part as it is precisely by making the most of their demographic dividends that many other Asian countries, such as China and Japan, have managed to rapidly develop their respective economies.
But it is not only that we have failed to benefit, it is also that by being unable to provide millions of people, particularly the youth, with jobs, we have also disillusioned them and have forced them towards various activities that actually exert different forms of social costs on society and the economy in general. These may include getting involved in criminal activities, resorting to substance abuse, etc., which in turn increases security and health expenditure costs among others.
As this newspaper reported, there are about 7 million people who are currently underutilised. Worryingly, the number of jobs that are being added every year is a measly 1.4 million, drastically down from the 4 million that had been added between 2010 and 2013.
As economists and other experts have suggested, in order to turn the tide, the government badly needs to increase investment in the education and health sectors and do it intelligently. Only a holistic approach involving different stakeholders can now make up the ground that has been lost because of poor policies of the past.