Tuesday, January 17, 2012

5 lakh more jobless in three years

Despite all his efforts, Arif Hossain, a graduate in Bangla from Dhaka University, has failed to land a job. He has faced many job interviews for the last three years, but all have gone in vain. 

He now pins his hope on the three interviews he appeared for last week. 

Arif wishes he gets a call from any of his prospective employers. It will bring smiles on the faces of his parents and siblings in a remote village in Satkhira. 

"My parents expect me to contribute to the family and bear the educational expenses of my younger brothers," said Arif, who now pays part of his living costs in Dhaka by tutoring students. For the rest, he has to depend on his parents.

Arif is one of nearly five lakh new faces that have joined the queue of the unemployed since 2007.

The number of the jobless in the country rose to 26 lakh in 2010, up from 21 lakh three years ago, says a preliminary report on Labour Force Survey (LFS) 2010 of Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS).
The BBS conducts a survey on the country's employment situation every three years.

"It shows that enough employment is not being created for people who have education up to SSC [Secondary School Certificate] or below SSC level," said Rushidan Islam Rahman, labour market analyst, while explaining the reasons for the rise in unemployment rate.

Rushidan, research director at Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS), said, "This group does not want to engage in agriculture. But the scope for regular non-farm employment is not expanding at a sufficient pace."

She said the unemployment growth reflects an underutilisation of the country's human resources, and suggested the government adopt policies that encourage labour-intensive industrialisation. 

"There is scope for labour-intensive growth in many sectors," she said, mentioning the furniture and leather industry in addition to the garment sector.

Planning Commission Member Prof Shamsul Alam said, "The number of the jobless has risen because of an increase in the population." 

He said the government had set a target in the Sixth Five Year Plan for creating more than one crore jobs through a promotion of small and medium enterprises and non-farm activities. 

According to the BBS, the unemployment rate rose to 4.5 percent in 2010 from 4.3 percent three years ago.
Zahid Hussain, senior economist at the World Bank, said the mentioned increase in unemployment rate is “somewhat misleading” because the survey does not include Bangladeshi workers abroad. 

Nearly 75 lakh Bangladeshis work abroad and their number has gone up in the last five years, according to the expatriates' welfare and overseas employment ministry.

Zahid said the yearly inclusion of new faces to the existing labour force has to be taken into account. “If they cannot find jobs abroad, they will have to be absorbed in the domestic economy or else we will face a serious social problem," he said.

Statistics Division Secretary Riti Ibrahim also recognised the need for including migrant workers in the survey.
"We will take the initiative to do that in the future," she said.

The country's labour force increased 14 percent to 5.67 crore in 2010 with 72 lakh new faces joining the labour force in three years.

Of them, 67 lakh got jobs. Three-fourths of them are women, thanks to a rise in job opportunities for women in the garment industry, the country's biggest export earner.
"A rapid expansion of the garment industry has created job opportunities for women in recent years," said Zahid.

Rushidan of BIDS, however, linked the employment growth to the rise in low productive self-employment and unpaid family work. 

"Self-employment cannot alone ensure a healthy growth of the economy. For this purpose, we need larger economic units that engage paid workers for more productive activities." 

Referring to the expansion of the labour force, she said the rise in economically active population is obviously a positive sign, which indicates that a prospective "demographic dividend" is available in the form of labour supply. 

"Now it is time to make a proper utilisation of the increased labour force to accelerate economic growth."