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The youth of the country must be equipped with technological skills in order to adjust with the fourth industrial revolution. If Bangladesh is to fully utilise its prevailing the demographic dividends, it must spread technology all over the country.

These observations were made at a virtual roundtable on ‘Eighth Five-Year Plan: Priorities for future employment of youth and national budget allocation.’ Post and telecommunications minister Mustafa Jabbar was chief guest at the roundtable jointly organised on Thursday by Prothom Alo and Oxfam. Also participating in the meeting were executive chairman of the National Skills Development Authority (NSDA) secretary Dulal Krishna Saha, professor of robotics and mechatronics at Dhaka University Lafifa Jamal, executive director of the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) Fahmida Khatun and others.

Prothom Alo associate editor Abdul Quayum made the opening presentation at the roundtable. Oxfam Bangladesh’s Empower Youth for Work project coordinator Toshiba Kasem presented the keynote. The programme was moderated by Prothom Alo assistant editor Firoz Choudhury.

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“We have talked about Digital Bangladesh from 12 years ago,” said the post and telecommunications minister. “After us, Britain, India, Maldives and Pakistan used this slogan too. Over the past 12 years the government has given full effort to materialise Digital Bangladesh. Now in 2021, the people are understanding what Digital Bangladesh is all about.”

He also said, “Our challenge is to transform the huge population into human resources.”

The fourth industrial revolution has been accelerated by coronavirus. Dependence on technology on a personal level and for official work has increased manifold... It is imperative to have a database about how many youth there are, how many are unemployed and what percentage is unemployed
Fahmida Khatun, executive director, CPD

Executive chairman of (NSDA), Dulal Krishna Saha, said Bangladesh is presently enjoying demographic dividends with a large part of the population over 15 years of age. They must focus on technology.

He said 600,000 freelancers had been created in the country so far. He also said NSDA was working towards the dream of Bangladesh becoming a developed country by the year 2041.

Professor Lafifa Jamal said that vocational education had a bright future in the country, but the youth were no inclined towards this. They looked to studying in universities. It is only when they fail to get a chance there that they turn to vocational education.

She said, “A link needs to be set up in our country between the industrial establishments and the educational institutions so that the institutions can build up the students as required by the industrial establishments. In the next step the industrial establishments will train the students according to their needs. But this link is lacking.”

Fahmida Khatun said, “The fourth industrial revolution has been accelerated by coronavirus. Dependence on technology on a personal level and for official work has increased manifold. Our employment is not increasing in proportion to our economic growth. It is imperative to have a database about how many youth there are, how many are unemployed and what percentage is unemployed.”

She said, “Women’s participation in the readymade garment industry is falling due to the increase in technology. Women are not adequately trained in technology and so are dropping out.”

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Professor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Agricultural University, Roshidul Hasan, said, “Youth must be equipped with skills in order to meet the fourth industrial revolution. Unless we prepare now, the national will have to pay a heavy price.”

Chief executive officer of Women in Digital Platform, Asiya Khaleda, said that while working at a rural level she noticed that they were still dependent on mobile data there as internet service was not adequate. Technology was particularly difficult for women, she said, calling for increased internet facilities at a rural level.

Young entrepreneur Swarna Khatun said, “We do not get banks loans for our businesses. They use the excuse that we are unmarried. There is the problem of capital. We face problems when we try to open up stores in the market. That is why we need to pay attention to online business.”

Head of Oxfam’s economic inclusion and justice department Mohammad Shoeb Iftekhar said, “The government is setting up 100 economic zones around the country. If that can be done, why can’t something be done for the youth? We are unable to set up a separate one for the youth.”

Programme officer of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Tanjilut Tasnuva said that sweeping changes would have to be made to the curriculum in order to meet the challenges o the fourth revolution. Systemic reforms were to be brought about. Alongside education and training, jobs must also be arranged for the youth.

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