Skills mismatch leaves unemployment high

Despite economic growth, unemployment remains high, especially among the educated youth, pointing to significant skills ‘mismatch’, experts said on Thursday. They came up with the statement at a National Dialogue on the Future Work’ held at Bangabandhu International Conference Center in the city. Labour and Manpower Ministry and International Labour Organisation jointly organised the programmes.

According to the official estimate of BBS, the unemployment rate in Bangladesh is currently 4.2 percent. This low figure is due to criteria used in defining unemployment and does not reflect the true magnitude of the jobless in Bangladesh, the experts said.

They said of particular concern is the high unemployment rate among youth (17-29 years) estimated at 10.6 percent among educated youth. The experts said, Bangladesh is undergoing a stage of demographic transition with a large youth population, in 2016-17 Bangladesh population stood at 161.3 million, in 1949, 54% of the country’s population was of working age(15 years),

This number increased significantly and stood at 67.6% in 2016-17 or 109.2 million. This means close to one-third of the country’s working age population (15-64) years, or 32.4 million workers are young people aged 15-29 years. The growth of youth labour factor in Bangladesh is widely considered an a `demographic dividend’ and a positive factor in attaining economic growth, they said, adding Bangladesh has projected the increase of its working age youth population until 2041.

The speaker said at the programme, Bangladesh is at a major crossroads in terms of its economic and social development, Bangladesh attained lower middle-income state in 2015, mainly due to rapid and sustained economic growth over the past decade.

At the high-level ILO National Dialogue on Future of Work, government, employers and worker leaders emphasized on tripartite consultation, skills building and ratification of ILO Conventions on minimum age and forced labour.

Policy recommendations on the alignment of national legislations with international labour standard, revitalisation of tripartite consultation and social dialogue, eradication of child labour and forced labour, and investment in skills development came out of a National Dialogue on the Future of Work.

The national dialogue brought together high-level government officials and representatives from worker and employer organisations to examine the present conditions of work and employment in Bangladesh, and also to seek solutions for future challenges.

Also taking part were Foreign Secretary, Md ShahidulHaque, Labour Secretary, Mr K M Ali Azam; Secretary of the Ministry of Law, Naren Das; Executive Chairman of National Skills Development Authority, Md Faruque Hossain; Additional Secretary of Technical and Madrasah Education Division (TMED), A.K.M. Zakir Hossain Bhuiyan; Additional Secretary of the Ministry of Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment, Dr Ahmed MunirusSaleheen; Inspector General of the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments (DIFE), ShibNath Roy; Director General of the Department of Labour (DoL), A. K. M. Mizanur Rahman; President of Bangladesh Jatiya Sramik League (BJSL), FazlulHaqueMontu; Chairperson of National Coordination Committee for Workers Education (NCCWE), Md Anwar Hossain; Member Secretary of NCCWE, Dr Wazedul Islam Khan; General Secretary of Jatio SramikJote Bangladesh, Naimul Ahsan Jewel; President of Bangladesh Employers Federation (BEF), Kamran T. Rahman; Secretary General of BEF, Farooq Ahmed; Committee Member of BEF, Tahmid Ahmed; Deputy Regional Director of ILO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, PanuddaBoonpala; and Country Director of ILO Bangladesh, TuomoPoutiainen.

Addressing the event, Professor Dr Gowher Rizvi congratulated the ILO on its 100th anniversary. He said, “ILO stands prominent by serving humanity for the last century. Today not only do we celebrate what ILO has done, but what the organization will do in future. Unfortunately, labour is still often seen as a commodity. Workers should be equal partners and this can be done by giving them equitable share of the wealth they create.”

As the Chair of the event, Begum Monnujan Sufian, MP, spoke about the reform in the labour administration to improve safety, welfare and access to justice for workers. She said, “I would like to acknowledge the support of the ILO in our journey since 1972. There is an increasing use of automation, artificial intelligence and robotics in enterprises. To address the challenges that may arise from these technological changes, harmonious cooperation between workers and employers is important.”

In his welcome address, Labour Secretary K M Ali Azam said, “The ILO brings tripartite representatives of the government, workers and employers to promote social justice and decent work. Effective functioning of this tripartite cooperation is essential for achieving equality and sustainability.”

Speaking as Special Guest, Panudda Boonpala thanked the Government of Bangladesh, workers and employer organisations, as well as development partners for working towards decent work in the country. She said, “We hope that Bangladesh will ratify Convention 138 on the Minimum Age for working and Convention 29 on Forced Labour, and by doing so this nation will complete the ratification of all core labour standards of the ILO.”

Labour leader, Fazlul HaqueMontu acknowledged ILO’s work in ensuring occupational safety and health, workers’ welfare and skills development.

Chairman of NCCWE, Md Anwar Hossain said, “ILO Convention 189 on Decent Work for Domestic Workers and Convention 190 on Violence and Harassment at Work deserve immediate ratification and proper implementation. The eight-hour working time for millions of workers in informal sector is not yet stated in our national legislation. And this was the first labour standard set a century ago.”

President of BEF, Kamran T. Rahman said, “ILO’s work to ensure social justice has greatly impacted the lives of the people in the world of work. BEF values the tripartite structure and processes of the ILO, and commits to work under these well-established procedures and practices. Bangladesh has a 65 million strong workforce and around 2 million more join the labour market every year. 20th century skill will not be enough for 21st century jobs. We need to act fast to skill and re-skill our youth population for the jobs of tomorrow.”

Md Shahidul Haque wrapped up the programme underscoring the important policy recommendations proposed by the distinguished speakers.