10/15/2015, 00.00
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Bangladesh’s youth unemployment, highest in South Asia

by Sumon Corraya
Recent reports by the World Bank and the International Labour Organisation indicate that 41 per cent of young people do not work, do not study and do not train. The situation is even worse for young women. Absence of quality education and skills is the main reason. Many firms have to hire foreigners. Unemployment and crime are closely linked.

Dhaka (AsiaNews) – Studies by the World Bank (WB) and the International Labour Organisation (ILO), based on 2013 data, outline a stark employment situation for young Bangladeshis.

Bangladesh’s population under 30 years of age makes up 60 per cent of the total labour force. In 2013, the youth unemployment rate in Bangladesh was 10.3 per cent, higher than the regional South Asian average of 9.45 per cent.

In that same year, about 41 per cent of Bangladeshi youth were considered NEET (not in employment, education or training) and the portion of young unemployed NEETs was 78 per cent, especially women.

Even when young Bangladeshi do work, they are employed primarily in the informal sector*, with more than 95 per cent of youth involved in informal economic activities in 2013, especially self-employment (31.7 per cent), and unpaid family work (11.1 per cent).

Shymol Rozario, a young 27-year-old Catholic man, spoke to AsiaNews about the difficulties of getting work. He has tried to find employment in the capital after he left his home village three years ago.

When he does get an odd job, like giving private lessons, he sends some money back home. However, this is not enough to “buy his parents the medical drugs they need.” His “mother prays for me, that I may land a good job, hoping that might send her more money.”

Basically, three years since his graduation Shymol is still unemployed, despite the many job interviews he has had. A stable, full-time position still eludes him.

In its report, titled ‘Toward Solutions for Youth Employment’, the World Bank report noted that the problem of youth unemployment is global, with a third of the world’s 1.8 billion young people not currently involved in employment, education or training.

A further one billion youth is expected to enter the job market in the next decade, but only 40 per cent are likely to get jobs that currently exist.

The World Bank report compared the situation and indicators in four focus countries – Bangladesh, El Salvador, Tunisia and Uganda – and found that the worst situation is in the Asian country.

“The absence of quality education and a skilled labour force are the main causes of youth unemployment in Bangladesh,” World Bank Lead Economist Zahid Hussain said.

The study found for example that more than 75 per cent of Bangladeshi business leaders claimed that a scarcity of skilled young workers was a challenge to hiring youth.

Because investment to generate employment is not in line with demand, the country currently must hire skilled workers from India, Sri Lanka and Thailand because of shortage of skilled labour.

Making matters worse, youth unemployment and crime are interconnected, said Mohammad Ashraful Alam, chairman of the Criminology and Police Sciences Department at Mawlana Bhashani Science and Technology University.

“Youth suffering from poverty, unemployment and illiteracy are often driven by frustration towards drugs,” he explained. After that, “the step to crime is a small one. If unemployment rises, the crime rate will too,” he said.

Last but not least, the World Bank report also noted a major gender gap in Bangladesh, with young women constituting the majority of unemployed young NEETs.

“More young women than young men are in vulnerable employment. The greatest proportion of women in vulnerable employment can be seen in Bangladesh (90 per cent),” the report said.

Early marriage is one major factor. In fact, most school dropouts are girls (64.4 per cent) in order to get married.

* The informal sector is neither taxed, nor monitored by the authorities, so it potentially exposed to criminal activities.

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