High unemployment rate among graduates
Bangladesh has achieved significant economic success over the past decade. Unfortunately, this economic achievement has not been able to create sufficient jobs in the country. The youth unemployment rate was 11.56 per cent in 2020 and 11.87 per cent in 2019. According to a World Bank (WB) report, more than a third of the graduates remain unemployed for one or two years after finishing their studies.
The reason behind this high rate of unemployment among the graduates is conventional education system, which does not equip students with the skills industries' demand. Bangladesh has a labour force of about 6.35 crore which is growing at 2.2 per cent annually. Consequently, around 20 lakh new labour force is adding to the existing number.
However, only 19 per cent of college graduates are employed full-time or part-time, while nearly half of them remain unemployed for at least one year. Furthermore, female graduates face higher risks to remain unemployed. Graduate tracking surveys found that around 75 per cent of the polytechnic graduates, 30 per cent of the college graduates and 20 per cent of the university graduates go through the curse of unemployment--lasting more than a year. Additionally, unemployment is most problematic for graduates of affiliated colleges, which account for more than two-thirds of tertiary enrolled students.
On the contrary, around 69 per cent of employers reported a shortage of skilled applicants for professional positions. The scenario indicates a major gap of skills among job seekers. Employers in Bangladesh are seeking higher-order cognitive skills and soft skills.
In order to bridge the demand and supply gap in the job market, investments in skills development training, equitable access for female and poor students, public funding mechanisms to develop market-relevant skills and an effective regulatory and accountability framework are needed. In the upcoming days Bangladesh will need a high-productivity economy. We need to work on a reform agenda covering competency framework and institutional development.
Industry-academia cooperation has emerged as a new means to elevate the country's competitiveness in terms of developing a skilled workforce and innovation ecosystem. So, the universities should cooperate with the private sector to convert our youth into skilled human capital. The authorities responsible must address the gap between industry and academia and create the environment so that they can cooperate.
In order to do so, increasing public investment in education, research and skills development is a must. Internationally recognized skills development training programmes should also be introduced. The private sector has to come forward to invest in education for a sustainable and commercially viable research ecosystem. Universities should not focus only on education and degrees as they have to provide necessary trainings.