The Daily Star in association with ActionAid Bangladesh organised an online discussion titled "Post-COVID-19 youth employment projection in Bangladesh" on July 19, 2020. Here we publish a summary of the discussion.
Farah Kabir, Country Director, ActionAid Bangladesh and the Chair of the Session
The aspirations of young people, particularly of young women, must be included in the national and local planning. We also need to collate all the ideas we have heard so far, such as targeting, having affirmative plans and programmes regarding creating opportunities for young people to enter the labour market, creating opportunities for influencing the Eighth Five-Year Plan, ensuring that the allocations are effectively working for the groups that they are targeted towards, ensuring the stimulus packages reach the people they are meant for, and guaranteeing the skills of migrant workers are recognised. Skills certification needs more focus while recognising that plumbers, cobblers, carpenters, nurses and paramedics are all equally important to society instead of denigrating them to second class status. At present such recognition doesn't exist, which is why people are unwilling to join these occupations, even though we have witnessed the need for these essential workers much more during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mahfuz Anam, Editor and Publisher, The Daily Star
Our younger generation can be divided into two groups. One group is creative, self-motivated, and can manage to find a niche in the digital realm with their innovation. However, besides this small number of advantaged youth, there is another larger group we often fail to reach. This group of youth doubt if hard work can make their lives better. We need to address them and find ways to reach them immediately to lead them towards a better direction.
Nazmul Ahsan, Manager-Young People, ActionAid Bangladesh
Bangladesh is moving forward to face the Fourth Industrial Revolution and hence, a lot of our manual workers will lose their jobs due to increased automation; the COVID-19 pandemic will intensify this. We need to provide our young people with market-oriented, updated skillsets, including the essential soft skills. Hence, the quality of the skills development trainings should be standardised and monitored accordingly. A comprehensive database is required to keep track of the country's workforce and help enhance the coordinated efforts.
Md Hatem Ali, Deputy Manager, Young People, Economic Opportunities & Decent Work, ActionAid Bangladesh
According to recent research, around 41 percent people, among which 8.7 million are youth, will be pushed into poverty while 1.64 crore people have already been driven under the poverty line. 87 percent of job postings have declined in April 2020 compared to April 2019.
We need to introduce schemes to convert skilled youth, especially women, into entrepreneurs. The youth should be included in the social safety net (SSN) to create employment retention schemes, tax relief, or interest-free loans for SMEs to expand the given opportunities.
Md Shah Alam Mojumder, Specialist (Course Accreditation), NTVQF Division, Bangladesh Technical Education Board (BTEB)
The three learning domains under the National Technical and Vocational Qualifications Framework (NTVQF) are cognitive, psychomotor, and attitude development. However, we still give cognitive domain utmost priority, leading to no real skills development. The National Skills Development Authority (NSDA) was introduced to adjust this, but now there are contradictions between NSDA and BTEB. This has caused development partners and training providers to be confused about who the actual certification authority is and who decides the standards of skills development. This issue must be addressed. All institutions and workers from all sectors need to be brought under the NTVQF to create a classified workforce.
Labib Tazone Utshab, Founder and CEO, Light to Life
To think inclusively, we need to believe in diversification, going beyond the borders of race or gender. We also need to keep in mind the idea of the global market in the long run. We must not be content with five-year plans during employment projection and go beyond to directly compete with developed countries.
Somen Kanungo, Founder & President, D Engineers Club (DEC)
Our organisation tries to connect multi-dimensionally through skills development and career counselling with the youth, who have failed to receive their expected results in HSC, leading them to drop out of education. These people are often ignored and humiliated by society, and they suffer from depression.
Arman Khan, National Executive Vice President, JCI Bangladesh
Work-from-home has provided us with new perspectives. New entrepreneurs have realised that a commercial space is not always necessary to conduct their work. Also, if work-from-home gains more traction, a lot of women who leave their jobs due to family issues can build their careers again.
Nazma Akter, Founder and Executive Director, Awaj Foundation
Due to a lack of education, there is a shortage of women's participation in decision and policymaking positions. Digitalisation is also leading to unemployment, especially among young women, who usually have less training in this aspect. Thus, the government should provide the necessary skills training.
COVID-19 has had an adverse effect on the RMG sector with decreased orders leading to the suspension of employees, but we are still hopeful. The retail prices of clothes have not gone down and it is only the workers who are suffering due to cancelled orders and discounts that our buyers are imposing. Our youth should raise their voices against injustices to bring social change.
Kamran T Rahman, President, Bangladesh Employers' Federation (BEF)
The pattern of businesses is changing due to five global trends. These include: technological innovation, global economic integration, demography in generational shifts, climate change and sustainability, and global shortage of skilled labour. The sooner we adopt technology, the sooner we will be able to increase our sustainability.
We need to check how much of the 12.1-billion-dollar stimulus package disbursed by our government has reached the beneficiaries. The faster the stimulus packages reach the beneficiaries, the faster the demand will be generated in our country which will ultimately help us overcome the effects of the ongoing crisis.
Tahsinah Ahmed, Executive Director, UCEP Bangladesh
The training institutions should come forward and analyse how they can be more competent and adaptable to the changes occurring. An Act needs to be implemented through National Skill Development Policy-2011, making it compulsory for institutions to follow it. We must change the types of training we are providing as traditional methods will not work efficiently anymore. The government and private sector must invest to develop the capacity of the training institutions.
Innovative steps, such as providing tabs instead of books and free internet packages to underprivileged children, can be taken to help them get access to education.
We need to be more inclusive by making separate budget provisions for occupational and social minority groups and providing them with sufficient training.
Anir Chowdhury, Policy Advisor, a2i (Access to Information)
The trend in our country is such that the more educated the graduates are, the higher is the unemployment rate. If we don't take drastic steps now, we will lose a total of two crore and 80 lakh jobs by the end of 2021.
We need to create a top-notch brand for vocational education and training. Otherwise, we won't be able to convince children's parents and the government will also refrain from providing first-class funding.
We need to provide Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL), for both returnee migrant workers and those already employed in the country. We continue to term them as unskilled labour but since they have earned a few years of job experience, we can provide them with certificates to recognise their acquired skills.
In a recent study, we have identified five sectors through which we can create around 40 lakh jobs. The sectors are agro-food processing supply chain; healthcare; pharmaceuticals; creative media; and ICT, e-commerce, digital credit. We need new entrepreneurs for job creation, especially digital entrepreneurs.
Lastly, the government alone cannot emphasise on NTVQF. To resolve this, we can undertake certain steps. Firstly, we need to have a collective decision-making system by ensuring integrated and real-time data. Secondly, we should focus on setting targets in different areas such as having two lakh mid-level managers by 2024. Thirdly, we should focus on budget allocation to meet targets. For instance, relevant ministries and organisations can be given set targets to generate employment for which they will obtain a certain budget; otherwise, they won't receive any budget. Fourthly, we need a simplification of the decision-making process to create a more citizen-friendly government.
Nasreen Jahan, Joint Secretary (Mission & Welfare), Ministry of Expatriates' Welfare & Overseas Employment
Skilled returnee workers or their family members can take loans of one to five lakh taka at a flat rate from the Probashi Kallyan Bank, which they can invest in different sectors to reintegrate into employment.
Dr Md Mafizur Rahman, Director General, Bangladesh Industrial and Technical Assistance Center (BITAC)
The National Skills Development Policy 2011 must be updated while keeping the COVID-19 situation and the fourth industrial revolution in mind. A large portion of the total budget must be allocated for skills development. The number of trainers should be increased and training modules for online training should be developed.
Tuomo Poutiainen, Country Director, International Labour Organization (ILO) Bangladesh
We should tie in entrepreneurship, informal economy investments and skills investments for both the formal and informal economies.
We should invest in creating a centralised hybrid private sector and public sector labour database that is actionable, usable, updated and made available on a continued basis. We also need to continue to invest in the middle ground of skills since not everybody will have high-skilled jobs.