Skills and Jobs for Inclusive Development – BIGD Focus Note

This publication synthesizes BIGD’s research findings on skills and employment in Bangladesh in recent years, with a particular focus on women and the need for equitable and inclusive growth in jobs. Despite steady growth and a large, young working-age population, there is a crisis of worker productivity in Bangladesh. Labour productivity is dismal compared to the rest of South Asia and other lower- and middle-income countries. Moreover, although unemployment is low in Bangladesh, labour participation is also on the lower end. However, the critical role of relevant, high-quality education and skills is undeniable in building a productive workforce and creating equitable, sustainable employment. Almost a third of the employed population in Bangladesh have no formal education and only 5% have tertiary education. Yet, formal education is not necessarily a good indicator of skills and capabilities. The quality of education is generally low in Bangladesh. An estimated two-thirds of those completing primary and more than a fifth of those completing secondary education are not literate, i.e., they cannot read a three-sentence passage “fluently without help” or can read “well but with a little help”. The unemployment rate among the labour force with tertiary education is almost three times as high as the average rate. Clearly, higher education has not offered an escape from low-productivity, low-paid employment prospects for a vast number of youths in the country. The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare an existing crisis and the dire need for better, higher-level skills among the working population is clearer than ever. BIGD’s Rapid Research Response to COVID-19 has found that the pandemic has hit women much harder than men— disproportionately more women lost their employment, had a harder time finding another job, and have had a much slower income recovery.

Author: Jahan, Nusrat
Type: Report
Year: 2021