Working population increases, unemployment doesn't decrease

Demographers say that jobs are not being created to meet the needs of this huge young population. As a result, the number of unemployed youth is increasing and unemployment is also not decreasing as expected

Bangladesh is passing through a high time to reap the demographic dividendFile photo

A 28-year-old man had his post graduation in agriculture economy in 2021. Three years after graduation, 10-12 youth including him of his batch of 45 are still unemployed. The youth, seeking anonymity, said government jobs are so competitive that even graduates apply for jobs of office assistant or wayman of railway. The youth further said he once could face viva voce in a job of 13th grade.

According to government data, the number of working population is higher than that of children and the elderly right now. The rate for the working population aged 15-64 is over 65 per cent. About 28 per cent of them are young people.

According to demographers, jobs are not being created to meet the needs of this huge young population. As a result, the number of unemployed youth is increasing and unemployment is also not decreasing as expected.

The country is now passing through a high time to reap the demographic dividend. However, if economic growth is not achieved by utilising this working population through health, education, employment opportunities and establishment of good governance, the country will fail to reap the benefits of this dividend.

The population aged 15 to 64 years is called the working population. A situation where the ratio of total working population to dependent population is more is called demographic dividend. According to the census report of 2022, the population of the country is more than 169.8 million. Among them, the number of women is more than 85.6 million and the number of men is more than 84.1 million.

In this context, World Population Day is being observed in the country today, 11 July, with the theme of the day this year is ‘Embracing the power of inclusive data towards a resilient and equitable future for all’.

A big portion of population not in work

According to the Socio-Economic and Demographic Survey-2023 report by Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS), the rate of unemployment in the country is 3 per cent while labour force participation rate is 57 per cent.

It says about 19 per cent of the 15 to 24-year-old population is not in education, employment or training. While the rate is 10 per cent among men, the rate among women is about 27 per cent. But the unemployment rate of men is higher than that of women.

According to BBS’ quarterly Labour Force Survey-2024 released on 6 May, the total number of labour force in the country in this first quarter was 73.7 million. Of them, 2.59 million are unemployed. The rate of unemployment is about 4 per cent. The rate was the same in the first quarterly report in 2023.

The unemployment rate has increased a bit compared with the annual report of 2023. During the three-month period of 2024, the total number of youth labour force (15-29 years) was estimated at 25.9 million including, less than previous years.

As per BBS’ sample vital statistics-2023, around 40 per cent young male and female are not involved with any education, work or training. The rate is 19 per cent for the male and 61 per cent for the female.

Speaking about the overall situation, Dhaka University’s population sciences department professor Mohammad Mainul Hossain told Prothom Alo the country does not have as many job opportunities as the number of working population entering the labour market each year. As a result, the challenges of unemployment and youth unemployment persist.

He remarked that the youth are not getting desired jobs according to their education and skills. If this working population cannot be brought into economic activities, the country will not be able to reap the benefits of the demographic dividend.

Achieving demographic dividends requires increased investment in the population's access to education and healthcare, employment and good governance and gender equality in society, Mainul Hossain pointed out.

Women slip further

Anwara Akter, 24, of Lalmonirhat was married off after passing Secondary School Certificate (SSC) examination in 2017. She is now a mother of two children. Anwara could not continue her studies after marriage. She is yet to get involved with any earning. Her family is run by the income of her husband, who is a farmer.

Bangladesh slipped 40 notches on the World Economic Forum's (WEF) Global Gender Gap Index, 2024 published in June. Bangladesh was ranked 99th among 146 economies with a score of 68.90, while it was ranked 59th with a score of 72 the previous year.

The WEF index assesses the gap between men and women across four fundamental categories: economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment. The report said Bangladesh’s position had been declining continuously in economic indicators.

According to the report, the gender disparity in the labour force has increased further. The income inequality between male and females has increased five fold.

Bangladesh has also slipped in education and health indicators.

UNFPA Bangladesh office’s sexual and reproductive health specialist Abu Sayeed Hasan told Prothom Alo that the marginalised families do not want to invest in girls' education. They marry off their under aged girls so as to pass the responsibility of the girls to other families.

Dwelling on the manifolded negative impact of child marriage, he said, as a result of this, the education of the girls get stopped, they became pregnant at early age risking the lives of their own and newborn. The chance of earning the girls also decreases.

Abu Sayeed Hasan said investment in education should be increased for economic empowerment of women to reduce inequality in the society. Proper demographic data should be developed to plan which groups are more backward and which areas should be given more priority.

* The report, originally published in the print and online editions of Prothom Alo print and online editions, have been rewritten in English by Galib Ashraf