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Jobless Growth

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Jun 2, 2017

From The Daily Star:

Bangladesh's job growth is the slowest in two decades although its economy has been registering faster growth for the last several years. […..]

The sluggish job creation has raised questions about the high economic growth figures being recorded, with some economists terming the phenomenon to be 'jobless growth.'

Some others raised questions about the accuracy of official economic growth figures.

Employers added only 14 lakh jobs between 2013 and fiscal 2015-16, according to the recent Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics' Labour Force Survey data, a stark decline from 40 lakh jobs being created between 2010 and 2013. The country saw the biggest job growth between 2005-06 and 2010, the data shows.

This slow job growth despite the high economic growth figures can be explained in two ways as suggested by many economists and stakeholders. Either there are issues with official growth figures or the benefits of the growth is not reaching to the majority of the population. The situation, termed as ‘jobless growth’ also indicates a serious problem for the country and as well a lack of understanding of and focus on issues that are critical for the sustainable development on the part of policy makers.

We have a huge young population, our median age is 26.4, and our future depends, largely on how we utilize this population. Discussion around demographic dividend is common but recent data from BBS suggests that jobless rate among educated youth is over 9%- an extremely disorienting fact.

We commonly ask our interview subjects about their thoughts on youth and Bangladesh in our long form interviews. Our huge young population is an asset but if we fail to manage, it will turn into biggest risk factor. As Mr. Asif Saleh of BRAC suggests in a recent interview with Future Startup while also offering what can be done to avert such a reality:

I don’t think we are getting it right. There are multiple studies that indicate the rise of extremism and drug abuse among youth. These are symptoms of a frustrated young population who don’t see a good future and can easily be misguided.

In order to make sure that we don’t end up at a wrong place, a few things need to happen. Our young people need to have a steady flow of employment opportunities. They need mentoring and guidance which is becoming increasingly difficult to access because of the gap between children and parents which is now wider than any time before. We need to create space for our young people where they can go, share their thoughts and problems, seek help and also participate. We need to listen to them and talk to them as well.

The quality of people that our universities are producing continues to decline. There are young people with good university degrees who lack basic skills such as analytical and problem-solving abilities. We often come across this reality during our recruitment process. These are the things that make me worried about a massive educated unemployed young generation that we are creating which is like a ticking time bomb.

We now understand that everybody does not need to attend university when we have a high degree of unemployment among graduate students. It is very important to offer some early level guidance to young people about what sort of career one should choose and skills one should develop. We are designing a network and intervention program along with Bangladesh Youth Leadership Centre which will focus on these areas.

Our plan is to run a one-year intervention where students from all backgrounds in the high school level will come together, form a network with mentors and develop some skills and also learn about career and life.

There are a lot of real work to be done in these areas and our young people should receive the highest priority when we are designing interventions. If we can’t get this right, we may get all our social indicators right and then one fine day we would find that all our achievements are gone because our young people are disgruntled and have no ownership of the society.


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