The momentum in job creation in Bangladesh has slowed in recent years despite robust economic growth, said the World Bank yesterday.
“The country needs to proactively address the challenge, starting with the formation of a national jobs strategy to increase the pace of formal job creation, raise the quality of jobs, and connect vulnerable workers to jobs,” it said in an analysis.
The analysis was presented at a workshop at the Sonargaon hotel in Dhaka. The WB and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) jointly organised the programme in association with the planning and the labour and employment ministries.
The annual growth rate for jobs fell to 1.8 percent in 2010-15 after growing at 2.7 percent annually in 2003-10. Job growth has almost stalled in the apparel sector, according to the WB.
The lender suggested Bangladesh focus on creating more and high quality jobs in the export-oriented non-apparel sectors.
In a presentation, Thomas Farole, lead economist, and Yoonyoung Cho, senior economist of the WB, emphasised formulation of a long-term plan to create a diversified job market.
Bangladesh has experienced impressive development and labour market progress in the past decade, the economists said. Still, Bangladesh is facing daunting challenges on job creation and quality job remains a major concern, they said.
“While the gender education gap has gone down, female labour force participation remains low and has declined recently,” according to the presentation.
Speaking at the event, Rajashree Paralkar, acting country director of the WB for Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal, said addressing jobs requires policies that establish the macro- and microeconomic frameworks to stimulate private sector investment, promote education and skills development, and support innovation, urbanisation and mobility.
“We look forward to the development of a national jobs strategy — a comprehensive set of coordinated policy actions that are targeted explicitly towards addressing the jobs priorities.”
Shamsul Alam, a member of the planning commission, said a comprehensive policy is needed in the time of high growth and lower employment. “To generate a skilled labour force, quality education is a must.”
Prof Mustafizur Rahman, a distinguished fellow of the Centre for Policy Dialogue, said Bangladesh is the second largest apparel exporter in the world, after China. But the market share of Bangladesh in the global apparel trade is only 6 percent while that of China is more than 32 percent.
“Vietnam and Cambodia are now overtaking us.”
The analyst said the backward and forward linkages industries in the garment sector will remain one of the major sources of employment.
“We need to introduce vocational education at school level so everyone achieves at least one skill before they leave the school,” he said.
Zahid Hussain, lead economist of the WB Bangladesh, said average monthly income has remained stagnant.
Informal employment accounts for 86 percent of total employment in Bangladesh, paid employment 39 percent and youth makes up 70 percent of the total unemployed labour force, he said.
Nomaan Majid, senior employment specialist of the ILO’s Decent Work Team in New Delhi, said there are some 11 million unemployed people in Bangladesh as per information of the ILO and the Asian Development Bank.
He said training, setting up a timeframe, and structural strategy review are needed to overcome the current situation.
“It is essential to analyse what sort of policies is required for taking the advantage of the ongoing demographic dividend. But analysing what sort of jobs can be generated through export diversification is also critical.”
Srinivas Reddy, country director of the ILO Bangladesh, Miah Abdullah Mamun, additional secretary of the labour and employment ministry, Faisal Ahmed, chief economist of Bangladesh Bank, Ahsan H Mansur, executive director of the Policy Research Institute, Nazneen Ahmed, senior research fellow of Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies, and Syed Nasim Manzur, managing director of Apex Footwear Ltd, also spoke.