Md. Parvez Alam
With the vision of building digital Bangladesh, the incumbent government has come in power in 2009. The consistency of the government has made indisputable success in some sectors including infrastructure, power, energy, and telecommunications. The mega projects undertaken by the government guide that they are working relentlessly to build a digital economy with the help of launching fourth-generation network, rapid transportation facility, installing automation at administrative level, transformation in business process and implementation of projects by using modern technology.
But still, mass people are yet to enjoy the fruits of the digital economy. We are not able to progress with respect to the uses of technology. Bangladesh has been growing miraculously more than 6.5% growth rate for more than one decade, yet it fails to create the required employment opportunity for the growing number of fresh graduates. The mobility of the employment remains still over the years.
Besides the foreign direct investment and private sector credit growth remain stagnant for a decade which has been considered the employment generation machine. Many economists term this sprawling economic growth rate as ‘Jobless Growth’. The world economy has experienced a paradigm shift in line with the consecutive industrial revolution. The nature of work is changing constantly. The traditional nature of jobs is becoming obsolete day by day. The 4th IR has brought groundbreaking consequences and redefined the business process.
Scholars are describing concurrent innovations like artificial intelligence, robotics technology, 3D printing, block chain, and big data, etc. as the beginning of 4th IR. 3D printing technology will create a new era of production concept. The increasing uses of robotics and AI have threatened hundreds of thousands of jobs all around the world.
Moreover, the increased uses of modern technologies including automation, robotics, and artificial intelligence in industrial sectors all around the world intensify the possibility of raising more unemployment in the future. A new report by the Brookings Institution, A Washington-based think tank, titled- Automation and Artificial Intelligence: How Machines Affect People and Places, stipulated that automation is threatening more than 25% jobs that are repetitive and boring.
According to McKinsey Global Institute, around 800 million people are going to lose their jobs due to rapid uses of robotics and AI in the industrial sector. In 2018, The World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said in a conference that about two-thirds of jobs in the developing world may be lost due to automation. An ILO report on Textile and Clothing sector held in ASEAN states that the textile, clothing, and footwear (TCF) sectors are at stake of losing jobs to automation.
Bangladesh is now going through the age of transformation, where the contribution of manufacturing and the service sector is increasing to gross domestic product. The ready-made garment industry, the highest export earning sector, facilitates employment opportunities around four million semi-skilled and unskilled workers, mostly females. This marginalized section is now facing the threat of losing their jobs due to the uses of modern technologies. Industry insiders said that one machine will substitute four workers along with higher productivity, efficiency, and quality control.
The increasing competition and border-less market force the corporations to install modern technologies which might reduce the defect rate and enhance efficiency. Though the garment industry is playing a dominant role in our economy for three decades, yet we failed to develop an efficient labor force for producing higher value-added products and diversifying our export basket.
Industry practitioners opined that without having efficient labor force and capacity for producing higher value-added products and ensuring increased productivity, it would be impossible for Bangladesh to achieve the export target of USD 50 Billion by 2021. Bangladesh is passing one of its best times as 65% of the population falls in the working class (aged 15-64) which is known as the demographic dividend.
Yet, Bangladesh isn’t able to capitalize the full potential of the demographic dividend according to population scientists and economists. Facilitating employment opportunities to the growing number of youth is one of the main challenges to the incumbent government and our readiness towards the 4th IR is also questioned by the industry insiders. Building the country as a manufacturing hub might be an effective solution to the concurrent problem. The technological know-how, technical expertise, practical work experience, and efficient labor force are prerequisite conditions for creating a manufacturing hub.
Our government has already taken the initiative to build 100 economic zones that will facilitate more than 1 core employment opportunities to all. Developing efficient labor force remains the underlying challenge for the country. Every year hundreds of thousands of graduates are entering into the job market and they fail to get their expected jobs. In contrast, Corporations are employing thousands of foreign employees mostly from India and Sri Lanka in the top management position due to the lack of qualified professionals.
Scholars opine that traditional education system, lack of qualified teachers, lecture-based way of teaching, low budgetary allocation in research, backdated curriculum and over-politicization in the process of faculty recruitment and promotion are the major forces that create the gap between market demand and fresh graduates. The polytechnic institutes are not able to keep promises to produce qualified technicians to support the emerging industries like motorcycles, mobile assembling and automation industries.
So without any further delay, policies required to develop a technologically sound young generation who would cope with the rapidly changing world should be implemented. Besides the wide circulation of technological knowhow and installation of automation technologies in the administration will not only facilitate the goal of achieving “Digital Bangladesh” but also reduce the corruption and improve the efficiency and transparency in all administrative process. Alongside, the budgetary allocation should be increased to research and training, social safety net benefits, infrastructural development, reformation of our traditional education system and creating favorable business environment to attract more local and foreign investment so that we can enhance production, efficiency and more employment opportunities for future work force.
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