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What can Bangladesh do to deliver more and better jobs for everyone?

Qimiao Fan's picture
Bangladesh woman working in flourescent lamp section
Bangladeshi woman works in the flourescent lamp section of SEED Bangla Limited. Photo Credit: World Bank

Bangladesh has made remarkable progress toward ending poverty and sharing prosperity with more of its people. As recently as 2000, about one in three Bangladeshis lived in extreme poverty based on the national poverty line; today, this has fallen to 13 percent. The poorest 40 percent of the population also saw positive per person consumption growth. Like in most countries, a key reason was broad-based growth in earnings. With more than 20 million people still living in extreme poverty and many workers with insecure jobs, Bangladesh cannot be complacent. It needs faster economic growth that can deliver more and better jobs for everyone.

The economy has been good for jobs over the past decade. Between 2003 and 2015, jobs growth outpaced the growth of the working age population. This not only cut unemployment rates but also brought millions of new workers into the labor market. With urbanization, workers have shifted from agriculture to industry and services. A large share of this new job growth came in formal waged employment, accompanied by strong productivity and wage growth. Large-scale expansion of employment in manufacturing, driven by the Ready Made Garment (RMG) sector, has contributed to this transformation, changing the lives of many for the better.

Despite robust economic growth, the pace of job creation has slowed in recent years, as confirmed by the 2015 Labor Force Survey recently released by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics. The slowdown was particularly sharp in the RMG sector. These developments put at risk many of the labor market gains made over the last decade, placing particular pressure on women and young workers. Unemployment rates among youth, particularly females, have already seen an increase in recent years.

There is still much that is wrong with Bangladesh’s labor market. The biggest challenge is job quality, which remains poor with substantial numbers of workers employed in informal, unpaid, or agricultural work. Only 1 in 5 workers are in wage work, less than 40 percent of whom have a written contract. This puts the vast majority of workers in jobs they could lose at short notice. There is a big gap in the quality of jobs between men and women: compared to only 5 percent of working men, one in three working women are not paid for their work.

So what can Bangladesh do? First, to create jobs on a large scale to absorb a growing labor force, Bangladesh must accelerate productivity growth and diversify manufacturing and services sectors, with a focus on expanding exports and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). Unlocking this potential will require addressing the rapidly rising congestion costs that restrict growth and hinder the efficiency of firms operating in and around the mega-city of Dhaka. Investing in the economic and social infrastructure to make secondary cities additional engines of growth would be also needed.

Raising the quality of jobs will require increasing productivity and exploiting the growth potential of Bangladesh’s vast array of small-sized firms. Microenterprises, as well as Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), which account for 98 percent of all firms and account for half of all jobs, are older and less dynamic than their peers in other countries. Improving the investment climate and increasing firm capabilities, both in the formal and informal sectors, can encourage growth in the micro and SME sectors. This will increase their ability to create more jobs.

Finally, Bangladesh must place a priority on ensuring access to good jobs by vulnerable people. Targeted labor market programs that address their problems in finding work offer a reasonable approach. Examples include removing barriers to women getting jobs, supporting school to work transitions for youth, and lowering the costs of international migration for lower income and workers located in areas far from job markets.

Addressing these challenges must be a priority for Bangladesh now. This is not an easy task. Concerted efforts are required in a range of government policies. It is encouraging that key policymakers, academia and think tank researchers, development partners as well as private sector partners are thinking deeply about these challenges. And the availability of jobs – stable, safe, and well-paid – is ultimately how ordinary Bangladeshis will judge the country’s development progress.

This article originally appeared in The Daily Star.


Submitted by Mahina Arefin on

Dear Qimiao Fan,

1) I thank you for your this Blog posting and concern.
2) You did not mention about Employment and/or Income generating activities in Rural Bangladesh .
3) World Bank can support income generating activities in village and rural level to achieve
4) I have offered more than 15 IGAs to World Bank in project NJLIP which will generate lot of employment and entrepreneur and even self-employment but there is still zero response from any quarter including World Bank.
5) Bangladesh being a densely populated country and of specific social culture the long term solution of eradicating poverty exists in Rural Bangladesh not in Urban Bangladesh.
6) I made attempt to answer your concern and await your reaction.

Mahina Arefin

Submitted by Mahina Arefin on

Dear Qimiao Fan,

1) I hope you must have taken the note of my response posting date 06/13/2017 and would like to write few more issues with respect to your concern on Bangladesh .

2) I fully agree with Mr. Zahid Hussain when he says that "Bangladesh infrastructure is world’s costliest" and it is due to corruption in bidding process.

3) In my opinion based on very specific research to great extent "World Bank" it self is responsible for such "corruption" and being "Costliest".

4) Keeping aside all the norms of road construction " World Permitted" rural road construction out of a livelihood development project of poor and extreme poor women.I wonder
what kind of policy and monitoring system World Bank fallows and/or followed in SIPPI ,SIPPII and NJLIP ?

5) More pathetic part is that many of rural roads are only on papers or have no provision of sustainability and even it is apprehended that it possible only when World Bank also shares in siphoning of funds in name of such infrastructure construction.

6) There are more or less same situation in tube well and there are documentary proves of selling the tube wells to private owner out of community funds but World Bank staff has no control and system to monitor it or becomes a share holder.

7)The issues goes even farther since same infrastructure is replicated more than once in various project of World Bank it self and/or other funding agencies.

8)In view of the above World Bank can be more strict and more transparent and even make GRS
system online and very prompt for citizens .

9) I made attempt to answer your concern and await your reaction

Mahina Arefin

Submitted by Sakhawat on

Dear Qimiao Fan

Hope you are doing fine!

Would you kindly confirm what exactly you took action for garments worker and what about you last workman ship to them as you had confirmed only 01 person out 05 garments worker know how to write their own address ,

so re 04 person out 05, is really having any blessing from world bank ??
and if yes , would you explain who are monitoring of these services ,

is there any opportunity to get involved to teach them who are well known the garment environment and very excited to tech the garments worker by serving .

please confirm and as well as awaiting to get reply on Mahina Arefin question.

My Regards

Submitted by Mahina Arefin on

Dear Sakhawat and Fan ,

1)I thank Sakhawat for writing the issue of literacy indeed.
2)I am not asking any question rather we need to work together on solutions.

Await further comment .

Mahina Arefin ,

Submitted by Suha on

When talking about opening doors for FDA, it is critical to acknowledge the role of government in preparing the suitable environment for that starting with immigration system to labor relation to banking and commercial facilities, only then foreign companies will be more interested in investing in the country. Not forgetting to update labor laws frequently in the manner that prompts the rights of employees and assures job security, in addition to insuring that sufficient benefits are available and gender equality is respected.

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