The United Nations Population Division in its data for 2017 estimates around 68 percent of our population are of working age. This means Bangladesh currently has a rare demographic window of opportunity—where the working age population surpasses that of non-working age. At this crucial juncture, about 29.8 percent of our population aged 15-29 are not in education, employment or training (NEET). And, as a result, we are missing out on reaping the “demographic dividend” that this window of opportunity presents.
Out of all the unemployed people in the country, about 80 percent of people are between the ages of 15-29. And out of the total unemployed population of 26.77 lakh, the number of educated unemployed people stands at 10.43 lakh. This is particularly concerning as it demonstrates the failure of our higher educational institutions to produce graduates who are finding success in the job market, and a clear disparity between the skills they are providing to young people and the skills that the market is demanding.
In order to bridge this gap, institutes of higher education need to form better connections with suitors in the job market, and the vocational training that students are being given needs to be attuned more towards employability. As experts have highlighted, while expatriate workers are sending in about USD 15.5 billion in remittances, over USD 5 billion is leaving the country every year as salary of foreigners employed mostly in top managerial positions within Bangladesh. While foreign experts are necessary, many of these positions could be occupied by domestic workers if they are given the right skillset, which is what we should be aiming for.
Besides restructuring our education sector, the government also needs to find ways to increase employment opportunities for people in general, keeping in mind that not everyone should have to receive higher education to find jobs. And it should do so soon in order to ensure we do not end up squandering this rare opportunity that we now have, and to make the most of our current wealth of human resources.