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2.6 million Bangladeshi youths jobless

May 28. 2017
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By The Daily Star/ANN

DHAKA - Government survey finds employment scenario nearly unchanged since 2013; independent expert says number could be higher

Mazhar Hossain stopped counting the number of copies of his curriculum vitae submitted seeking jobs since he completed his master's degree five years ago.

The 32-year-old from Satkhira took several recruitment tests. In a number of cases, he made it through to viva but that was it. He is still unemployed.  

"I'm really frustrated. It seems you either need good connections or some backing to get a job. Otherwise, you will remain unemployed like me for years," said Mazhar who passed from a reputed institution in Jessore.

His story is shared by thousands others as the latest survey of the government has found 26 lakh unemployed people in the country.

The unemployment rate has slightly changed from 4.3 percent in 2013 to 4.2 percent last year though the government created massive job opportunities over the period. The report on the survey conducted between July 2015 and June 2016 will be released today.

According to the Quarterly Labour Force Survey Bangladesh 2015-16 done by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, rural areas have 18.2 lakh unemployed people, more than double the number of those, 7.7 lakh, in urban areas.

The urban-rural population ratio is 30:70 in Bangladesh.

The BBS says it has followed the international standard definition of unemployment while conducting the survey on various aspects of people's economic activity.

As defined by the International Labour Organisation, people who are out of work, want a job, have actively sought work in the previous four weeks and are available to start work within the next fortnight come under unemployed category. 

Prof ATM Nurul Amin, chairman of the economics and social sciences department at Brac University, said the unemployed population should be higher than what was found in the survey.

The definition should be set considering local context, he said, adding that in Bangladesh people who are underemployed meaning they work less than 40 hours a week or earn less than the income required to meet basic needs or those who work at a lower tier compared to their skills and expertise should be considered unemployed.

Unlike many western economies where people get state benefits for periods of unemployment, people in Bangladesh are not entitled to such thing, Prof Nurul said.

“There are huge cases of underemployment here.”

The private sector creates more employment opportunities than the public sector in the country, but the investment in the private sector has been stalled for quite a long time, one of the major reasons behind the high unemployment rate, the Brac University teacher said. 

According to the survey, unemployed male and female are equal in number -- 13 lakh. The number of female unemployed population was higher three years ago.

An estimated 6.21 crore people aged 15 or above are now in the labour force, up from 6.07 crore population estimated in 2013.

Some 5.95 crore were found employed in 2015-16 survey, up from 5.81 crore in 2013. It means 14 lakh people entered the job market during the period.

An estimated 18 lakh of those having jobs of less than 40 hours a week were found looking for new or additional jobs. The latest survey also found 86.2 percent of the total employed population aged 15 or above in informal employment.

Between 2016 and 2013, non-agriculture sectors like industry, trade and other services absorbed a higher number of people than the farming sector. As a result, the proportion of jobs in the agriculture sector declined to 42.7 percent in 2016 from 45.1 percent in 2013.

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