Article by GILC

Demographic dividend: Burden or opportunity?

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With over 30 % of the population under the age bracket of 24, Bangladesh is an emerging and fast-growing economy with a relatively young population. But are we making the right use of this young workforce? 

Demographic dividend has been defined by United Nations Population Fund as “the economic growth potential that can result from shifts in a population’s age structure, mainly when the share of the working-age population (15 to 64) is larger than the non-working-age share of the population (14 and younger, and 65 and older”. A major portion of Bangladesh’s population falls within the working-age bracket. Due to a relatively young population, the working hands of this country are greater in number compared to the non-working hands. 

This implies a huge growth opportunity and development prospects for the country. But Bangladesh lacks in providing the youths with proper training and skill generation opportunities. Even though Bangladesh has the demographic dividend to its advantage, it is failing to utilize this opportunity. 

One of the prime barriers in this respect is the lack of proper youth policy in the country. Bangladesh has a satisfactory GDP growth rate of about 8%. However, this indicator alone does not showcase the whole picture. The unemployment rate of the country stands at 4.37% according to BBS. It might appear to be a minor issue considering marginal unemployment and growth goes hand in hand. What is alarming is that 46% of the total unemployed population of Bangladesh are University graduates. This leads us to the conclusion that almost half of the skilled or educated class are failing to find a proper job to make ends meet. 

Several factors have been identified as the root cause of this scenario. Poor placement policy, lack of skill-oriented education, weak skill development initiatives are just a few of them. The government needs to step up its initiatives if it plans to use this dividend to its advantage. 

A deeper look at the mentality of the youths also reveals some fundamental flaws. Many graduates from various disciplines are resorting to government service as the primary, and in many cases, only one form of acceptable job. A graduate student of engineering pursuing a government job at administration or economic sector not only underutilizes his or her potential but also devoid the technical sector. 

This mentality of increased desperation for government jobs crops from the desire for job security and stability, along with various other benefits. The silver lining here is the private sector, though it is much weak and provides very low to almost no stability. As a result, it is failing to attract job seekers. Combined with that, most private organizations demand high skill and well proficiency in its relevant areas which are often absent in prospective candidates. And that brings us back to the top of the cycle, lack of proper skill development initiatives. 

To overcome this barrier, widespread skill generation initiatives should be implemented. Graduate studies can be made more skill-oriented to develop work-related skills in addition to academic excellence. More importantly, the mentality of the youth needs to be changed. It should be conveyed that government jobs aren’t the only prized prospects. Contributing to relevant sectors would not only mean higher output in part of the youths but will also ensure proper utilization of the demographic dividend. 

Author: Shahriar Rabab

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