Md. Joynal Abdin
The Independent on December 18, 2017
The government of Bangladesh has fixed up vision 2021 and vision 2041 to be middle income and developed countries by the year 2021 & 2041. Similarly major opposition political platform has come up with their vision 2030 to have economic development of the country. On the other hand globally sustainable development goals (SDGs) 2030 were fixed up by the United Nations as a follow-up action plan of the millennium development goals (MDGs) 2015. Government of Bangladesh took SDG targets seriously to be achieved by 2030. 7th five year plan of Bangladesh focused mostly to the SDG goals and targets. Separate platform has been created to coordinate SDG related issues under the leadership of a Senior Secretary of the government under direct supervision of the honorable Prime Minister of Bangladesh.
Each of the newly enacted policies, development plans, projects and programs are making linked with the SDG and other national goals like vision 2021 and 2041. During resource allocation for these development activities we identified a serious gap between our development expectations and availability of required skills. Bangladesh is earning about USD 5 billion by exporting 8 million plus semi-skilled or unskilled workers mainly to the Middle East and Southeast Asian countries. But Bangladesh is paying about USD 5 billion plus by recruiting less than 0.2 million foreign professionals here in Bangladesh. That means we are lagging behind in terms of mid-level managerial and technical capacity required to operate our existing corporate houses.
Skills development became an emergency issue for Bangladesh to achieve its visions and to increase valuable foreign currency earning in any forms namely; export earnings and remittance. According to a recent study conducted by BIDS titled “Labour Market and Skill Gap in Bangladesh” labor demand has been projected to increase from 63.5 million in 2016 to 88.7 million in 2025. The rapid increase in projected labor demand is the result of high projections of GDP growth, which has been assumed to be sustainable with the same elasticity of employment as experienced during the last decade. From the year 2021, labor demand will be in excess of supply of labor in Bangladesh. In fact, Planning Commission has also estimated that during the Seventh Five Year Plan period, labor demand generation would be in excess of supply. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) also mentioned that Bangladesh is in skills shortage in a study conducted in 2015.
BIDS (2016) showed in another study i.e. Skill Gap Analysis for Selected Sectors that, existing skill gap is the highest in the agro-food sector followed by the RMG Sector. Skill gap for “skilled workers” is also high (40%) in the IT and leather sectors where this is a constraint. Generally skilled workers and semi-skilled workers are in short supply in every sectors of Bangladesh. The same study projected that demand for skilled workers would be in agro food sector will increased to 261%, in construction sector it would be 54%, in healthcare sector 54.95%, in hospitality and tourism sector 35%, in IT sector 100%, leather goods sector 107%, light engineering sector 76.95%, in RMG sector 122.6%, and in shipbuilding sector 677% in 2025-26 fiscal year. From the above study findings it’s quite clear that, to meet the visions (2021, 2030, and 2041) Bangladesh has to develop skilled manpower in every sector. Few other studies identified that demand for overall manpower in Bangladesh would be higher than its population growth. That mean overpopulated Bangladesh is becoming manpower shortage country within next one decade.
To meet up this skills gap government is trying to restructure overall education system of Bangladesh. Technical and vocational education system is given priority over general education. A cash incentive is given to the technical education students along with other instrumental support. But performance of the vocational institutes throughout the country is miserably poor. Quality of education in technical and vocational sector became questionable. Graduates from these institutes are becoming idle due to their poor performance in the industry. This education system is unable to meet up-to-date demand of the industrial sectors. As a result graduates are remaining unemployed. On the other hand industries are recruiting foreign professionals with valuable foreign currency to meet concurrent demand of the world competition in respective sector.
National skills development council (NSDC) was established and upgrading it into National Skills Development Authority (NSDA) is under process. National Skills Development Policy (NSDP) was adopted few years back. Updating curriculum of technical and vocational education board is under process. Now is the time to analyze weather our existing institutional setup is capable to create required number of skilled hand to meet up the demand or we have to establish new institutes?
One of the major challenges to improve quality of our education system to produce qualified manpower is absence of enough laboratory facilities in specific fields. Secondly, we have limitation in development of appropriate course curriculum and modules to teach. Scarcity of trained trainers / teachers is another bold barrier to capacity building of our local education institutes. Government alone cannot fight with all these barriers toward capacity building of our education system and facilitate demanded skills development of Bangladesh. Government shall involve private sector more actively with skills development initiatives. Local entrepreneurs shall be encouraged by the government to establish skills development institutes and training up their employees in respective field.
Without governments direct support private sector cannot effort cost of training up an employee during his working hours (while he is paying for this hours), paying the training cost in addition to the salary without work. As a result local professionals are remaining backdated in absence of up-to-date training facility; finally they are remaining under performer. Government could allow Private Sector to adjust the cost of capacity building of his employee from the applicable corporate taxes on him. Government may enact 100 hours mandatory training act to facilitate skills development of the professionals working in private sector. But that 100 hours cost should be adjusted from corporate tax applicable on respective organizations. Otherwise skills development in massive scale will remain a need never be achieved.
Private Sector shall be encouraged to establish technical institutes with up-to-date modules and laboratory facilities. Government should allow foreign investment in capacity building sector of Bangladesh to facilitate technology and managerial capacity transfer. A massive revolution is required to draft and adopt competitive course curriculum, modules, trained teachers, laboratory facilities, industrial attachments and other necessary tools of skills development. SEIP type’s project is required for capacity building of technical and vocational institutes as well as the institutes established by Private Sector Entrepreneurs, Chamber of commerce, Sectoral Associations, and Social Contributory Trusts etc. Without producing qualified manpower with up-to-date skills all of our visions i.e. Vision 2021, 2030, and 2041 will remain unattended forever.