Around 40 per cent of the young people aged between 15 and 24 years in Bangladesh today are 'not in education, employment or training', shows an ILO report.
The actual number of such youth, Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics estimate suggests, would be 11.6 million as there are at present a total of 29 million youth of that age group in the country.
These youth are considered as job market entrants despite their inactivity and, according to an OECD study, they are "at most risk of marginalisation from the labour market".
The country's rate of what is technically called NEET [not in education, employment or training] is the third-worst one in Asia Pacific region, said the ILO's statistical report titled "Decent Work Decade 2006-2015: Asia-Pacific and the Arab States' . The NEET rate is 56 per cent in the Maldives and 48 per cent in Yemen.
Riad Hossain, 19, is one of many such youth. He came to Dhaka from Barisal after passing higher secondary certificate (HSC) examination two years ago. But he could not manage any job, nor is he engaged in training required for industrial employment. He is either in a position to offer manual labour for earning a living.
"There is no point in taking non-technical education. A friend of mine who has minimum literacy but attained technical knowledge on electric wearing, is now working at a major garment house. He earns Tk 18,000 a month. But I can't secure a job of Tk 8,000-Tk10,000 compensation per month," he lamented.
The rate of NEET is far worse for the Bangladeshi girls. Of the economically inactive youth, 62 per cent are females and 14 per cent males.
The issue of youth employment, education and training has attained higher attention as one (8th) of the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) promotes "decent work for all". Bangladesh has endorsed the global goals and incorporated them into national development goals.
World Bank economist Zahid Hussain called this state as economic wastage which he feels may create social risks.
"Many of the youth cannot secure job opportunities, depending on their general education. It may be easier for the evils to derail this youth force," he said adding, "They are the people who we call demographic dividend but we are just wasting that advantage."
The lower-income countries with low economic activities of the youth also ranked lower on the World Bank's competitiveness index, the ILO report pointed out. Bangladesh was placed at 107th in the 2015 index.
On the current situation, the Citizen's Platform for Implementing SDGs coordinator, Debapriya Bhattacharya, compared the social tensions for job crisis with "time bomb". "The youth cannot get decent jobs due to lack of necessary industrial growth. They are deprived of quality education nor do they have training required for meeting demand of the industry," he said.
Asked about solution to the crisis, the economist said quality of education should be improved and good quality teachers built. "They must be encouraged to become entrepreneurs, instead of focussing only on serving others and necessary financing facilities should be ensured for them."
This report, originally published in Prothom Alo print version, has been rewritten by Khawaza Main Uddin and Sitesh Saha