The dynamics of wage and self-employment—BD in context
You do not take birth as an Employee, you do as an Entrepreneur. This is manifest in the independent professions man took to from early times. Over thousands of years, man changed his condition, most importantly, his status in accumulating wealth by manipulating natural resources. Historically, position of a particular person, or a group, a community, a sect, a dynasty, a nation is seen to be defined and established by " endowments" (from God or nature?) in respect of intellect, appearance, size, and muscle power.
A section of the mankind has in the course of time, utilized these "endowments" in favour of themselves, took over leadership of human habitations, and accumulated wealth that determined their positions as Employers. Conceivably, in the primitive societies where personal wealth was not a phenomenon, man gathered resources and consumables from the nature on a collective effort and shared among them. But, as the "endowments" of some of the members of a society took precedence over others', the difference started being visible and widened over time--a group became Employers and another became Employees.
So, inherent qualities may have a prominent role to play in fixing a person either as an employer or an employee. But, in the modern societies where business, government and other organizations are in full bloom and abundance, and are engaged in orchestrating the activities of people, citizens' aims and aspirations are overwhelmingly shaped by their environment and financial conditions. Wide opportunities for some and narrow chances for others do easily channel the efforts of individuals to either adopt the pursuit of self-employment, or give in to take up jobs to toil dawn to dusk under the vigil and commands of fellow humans.
Bangladesh on earth is a hot spot of events and a landscape of human struggle and drudgery. A lot many reasons may be pointed to as the culprits behind this situation; but a common man's simple judgment may fork out the reasons to be--firstly, a thumb-nail land mass that the country has; secondly, a large population strikingly disproportional to the size of the country; thirdly, availability of very little natural resources; fourthly, a non-supportive climate; and fifthly, the generic quality of the part of the human race living in this part of the world.
People in Bangladesh are born by fate to operate under these circumstances. In this country, over 160 million heads seek food every morning to remain alive, shelter for safety and comfort, healthcare to retain physical existence, cloths to protect the body and to maintain minimum civility, and education to sustain all this requirements. Scarcity of natural resources creates a social milieu seriously competitive and harsh as the huge population engages in daily struggles and gladiatorial combats to earn means to meet these necessities.
In production, certain factors serve as precursors namely, land, labour, capital and organization. Anyone willing to engage in self-employment or business needs to arrange for these factors. How can a fresh man from any educational institution pull these factors together so he can kickoff a business? This can be thrust upon him by inheritance, or he has to earn it himself, or at least may arrange through credits available in financial markets, which again is generally not sufficient measured against requirements. This is where scarcity of resources keeps its mark in deciding the courses of lives of poor people in countries that are acting as rear runners in the new era international competition for business and wealth.
Scarcity of resources contributes to non-availability of other resources such as training facilities, infrastructures that help to create, sustain and bolster entrepreneurship--or such scarcity at best presents disrupted facilities and structures which frustrate enterprising initiatives and ultimately divert people to jobs however poorly paid and treated.
The Bangladeshi scenario is a typical instance in point which is until now largely incapable to channel a sizeable portion of its workforce towards undertaking business as profession. The people joining the workforce every year together with carry over unemployed persons from the previous year(s) wade through great barriers with jitters striving to find opportunities to engage in business only to get nipped in the bud. Frustrated and fatigued, they, by failures, often by serial failures, are compelled to run for jobs too less to fit their requirements.
If the tail of the coin represents job seekers, the head presents the entrepreneurs to the society--they are the people who bank upon the "endowments" they enjoy and exploit the environment and the available conditions. That translates the rule "survival of the fittest" into reality and builds them into entrepreneurs. However, corruptive practices cannot be oversimplified which, in many cases, supply the main resources in rendering one's entrepreneurial debut successful. Others, following honest and pious professional endeavours fail to make a room though the so called "endowments" did not deprive them in the natural process.
There are fascinating stories about people who came from very backward conditions and morphed into potential businessmen. But, those are professional fairy tales and hardly represent the reality; average man, in this country, fancy, as he prepares to enter the workforce, for a job with minimum pay to bear day-to-day expenses in the backdrop of the resource-base and the professional ecology of the country.
This does not provide any good news for national economic health, rather threatens it, for it is only business that retains the capacity to exploit available resources and create wealth for a nation to feed its requirements and to embolden its position in the face of global competition. NGOs in this country no doubt have done mammoth tasks, especially in supplying one of the factors of production, the capital to the rural micro-entrepreneurs. That capital working in unison with the other factors generates a certain income which goes to meeting recurrent expenses for holding body and mind together halting wholesale economic man-slide that, if occurred, could cause human disasters in terms of hunger, malnutrition, ill health, homelessness, illiteracy, social strife and struggle, destruction of law and order, hindrance in productive and development works, and then could create a vicious circle of poverty breeding poverty.
But, incomes in micro-level do not create any significant wealth and assets; creation of wealth necessary to change status of a country from underdevelopment to development, from less to sufficiency, needs business activities at macro-levels that generate adequate incomes so the spill over could get converted into wealth and assets that could protect her multifarious interests and inject the vitality in her systems and institutions so she could sustain herself over the long run and in times of adversities.
The policy of creating space for business should, therefore, be the principal task of any and all successive governments of Bangladesh; in the trail, as many jobs will be created as the productive and trading efforts are strong and versatile. To realize the hulking objective of getting the competent hands of this nation into business, reorganizing the existing facilities into an entirely separate R&D oriented employment ministry, clear of such duties as expatriate welfare or labour issues, might do a great job. The mandate of the ministry would be to plough and prepare beds for cultivation of employment: both wage- employment and self-employment. Detailed job description for the ministry may be charted out in brainstorming sessions to take place in professional and technical workshops following Logical Framework Approach (LFA) before establishment of the ministry.
Specifically, the mandate would include (1) studying demographic characteristics and calibrating measures to wide open avenues for entrepreneurs and for that matter for job seekers. (2) Researching to focus on the conditions of jobs and employments; to propose how to increase jobs; and to locate the fields of jobs--all in the context of available national and international resources, domestic and international market variables. (3) Producing and presenting employment index and quarterly reports on the conditions of national employment with statistics on number of jobs created, number of jobs lost, number of jobs needed, and other allied information unearthed by researchers. (4) hounding day and night other ministries and institutions that are linked to business, such as the ministries of trade and commerce, industry, finance, education, foreign affairs, science and technology, communication, law and order, planning commission etc. to ensure that the people there mind business, think business, talk business and work business. That's how employers and employees could mushroom to prepare a soup with a tonic effect for the economy.
Mr Zakaria is an ex-banker and an ex-corporate executive