Words & Messages

Tackling unemployment

Mahmudur Rahman | Update:

One of the pivotal questions among voters in India’s elections is who will create the ten million jobs annually required to meet the supply of qualified job seekers. It requires private investment in labour intensive industries but that has not been forthcoming at rates that match supply.

Government by itself, be it in India or Bangladesh, can’t go anywhere near that number and that’s why start-ups and small and medium industries can play a big role.

It’s easy to blame lack of investment as a major factor but it is missed too often that new investment favours automation over manual labour to maintain the speed and efficiency that is demanded.

There are still industries that are labour intensive, both at the managerial and worker level, and the readymade garments sector stands out as the sector that has had to depend on expatriate management simply because the appropriate skills aren’t available. And yet nearly 500,000 jobs are required to meet demands of the supply chain of graduates.

The private and public universities churning out graduates are adrift of job requirements thereby creating the gap. And in the absence of backward linkage, other industries are following suit so much so that the Sri Lankan and Indian languages are widely heard in commercial establishments.

In spite of 100 economic zones being created and several countries getting exclusive zones the investments have been slow in Bangladesh. Investors are also reluctant to employ local managers, especially in higher positions. The matter is made more complicated by the inability to help individuals grow after a given point. This in turn causes apathy towards jobs in general.

The famous quota system was seen as a detriment to qualified graduates in government jobs. Now that that has been partly resolved the intake should improve.

It’s in the private sector that appropriately skilled personnel are not being available. The Board of Investment does have rules for investors about percentages of the work force that can be expatriate appointments, but no such rules apply to local private sector organisations.

It is high time university and trade school syllabi needs undergo a sea change to produce graduates and craftsmen whose skills match with demand. This is where the government has a role in bringing together educational institutions and employers so as to plug the gap between demand and supply. The days of getting experts to do this have unfortunately become out-dated. Management techniques have changed and many organisations require bottom rankers to exit as part of an annual exercise. It’s not always fair but it is true that these employees may be asked to leave even after a satisfactory rating in performance appraisals. That is similar to forced ranking whereby a certain percentage of the task force have to be ranked under par even though the appraisal finds them with at par performance. The idea is to achieve more ambitious targets in the stretch objectives that are set to begin with.

For now the number of job seekers are high; their qualifications not so and companies spend lots to make do with the best they have. That is the reality.

*Mahmudur Rahman is a communication expert. He can be reached at mahmudrahman@gmail.com

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