Economic Overview Of Bangladesh

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Economic Overview of Bangladesh

Economic Overview of Bangladesh:

For decades after 1971 the development of the Bangladeshi national economy has been hindered by political instability, poor economic performance, pressure on scarce natural resources by the rapidly growing population, and an ineffective bureaucracy. The major changes introduced during the 1990s included more flexible economic policies, export-oriented industrialization, and inflow of foreign direct investments. Inflation remains low and is under control. In 1999 and 2000 Bangladesh achieved strong economic recovery after the devastating floods of 1998, and if the regional and global economic environment remains positive, the Bangladeshi economic annual growth rate of 5 to 6 percent might continue. This development may ease the poverty, low standards of living, underemployment, and unemployment problems.

Bangladesh experienced adverse effects from the global downturn, primarily through slower growth of exports and workers’ remittances, and damped investment sentiment. Still, it has maintained relatively strong expansion, reduced inflation, and kept a current account surplus. For FY2010, this Update maintains the projections made in March for moderately slower growth and inflation relative to FY2009, but now forecasts a small current account surplus rather than a deficit. The medium-term trajectory will depend heavily on the Government’s ability to implement reforms, which include substantially boosting budget revenue and raising infrastructure investment.

Nevertheless, there are several issues to be addressed. There is strong potential for all the problems, including political instability and recession, to return if the government fails to improve the economic situation in the country or if global recession or global competition negatively affects the country’s exports. Both the border clashes with Indian border guards in early 2001, which led to heavy casualties, and confrontations along the border with Burma (Myanmar) show how fragile regional stability is. The government has often been criticized for its intervention in economic development and its inability to improve economic management or to conduct further reforms, including privatization. There is also a serious problem with widespread corruption; with some political groups accused of wasting public resources. It remains to be seen whether economic liberalization combined with the force of globalization measures will strengthen the performance of the national economy.

In the longer term, Bangladesh will need to maintain its international competitiveness, since the current globalization trend eliminates borders for international trade and brings growing competition from emerging markets for FDIs and for the transfer of modern technologies. Political and social unrest in neighboring Burma might affect Bangladesh, threatening and undermining regional stability and thus scaring off potential investors. Environmental issues are also very important for Bangladesh in the longer term, as global climate change and the rise of the surface level in the world’s seas may undermine the country’s agriculture, which still plays a dominant role in the national economy. In fact, a warmer Earth could well witness sizeable areas of the country covered by water, or it might increase Stalinization of the currently arable land, making it impossible to continue agricultural activities.

Current Economic situation in Bangladesh:

Current economic situation in Bangladesh is stable, but it cannot be taken for granted as the impacts of global recession are beginning to show. Recession in the developed markets and slowdown in the Middle East have already begun posing a threat to Bangladeshi exports and remittances. Economic growth in recent years has come mostly from the industrial and services sectors. Find Solutions for Enterprises, SMBs & Service Providers at the INTERNET TELEPHONY Conference and EXPO East, January 20-22, 2010. Miami, FL. Find Solutions for Enterprises, SMBs & Service Providers at the INTERNET TELEPHONY Conference and EXPO East, January 20-22, 2010. Miami, FL. Find Solutions for Enterprises, SMBs & Service Providers at the INTERNET TELEPHONY Conference and EXPO East, January 20-22, 2010. Miami, FL. So far, economic growth is on track to achieve 5.5 percent in FY09. In the worst case scenario it could be as low as 4.5 percent if export and remittance collapse in the last quarter of FY09.Inflation has declined to 6.1 percent in January 2009 from a nine-year high of 11.6 percent in December 2007.About the macroeconomic management of the country, the WB economist said although the government’s current macroeconomic stance is sustainable, it remains highly vulnerable. Narrating the impacts of recession, he said frozen food export during July 2008 to February 2009 declined 11 percent, while lather by 33 percent, jute goods by 18.1 percent and pharmaceuticals by 15.5 percent. Remittances have held up so far but monthly growth rates are rapidly declining. Describing the present scenario of manpower export, which is the key to remittances, he said during the first nine months of FY09 (July-March), 537,000 migrant workers got jobs abroad compared to 720,000 during the same period last year. At least 2 to 2.5 million new local jobs will be needed until the global economy recovers fully, compared to 1 to 1.1 million local jobs needed prior to the economic crisis.

Annual GDP growth in Bangladesh remained strong in FY09 despite the global economic crisis.

GDP growth of 5.9% is estimated for FY2009 (ended June 2009), below the performance of the previous year but somewhat higher than the projection of 5.6% made in the Asian Development Outlook (ADO 2009) released in March this year. This stronger outturn is due to better than expected agricultural expansion, at 4.6%. The output of aman, the second rice crop (harvested in November–January), rose to 11.6 million tons, a 19.6% rise over the previous fiscal year and reflecting a strong recovery from the severely damaged FY2008 crop. Boro, the major rice crop (harvested in April–May), is estimated at 17.8 million tons, marginally exceeding FY2008’s record output. Crop production benefited from favorable weather conditions as well as strong support from the Government that enabled farmers to access inputs and credit. Services sector growth (at 6.3%, down from 6.5% in FY2008) moderated, largely as a result of slower export and import activity. Industrial growth of 5.9% fell below both the ADO 2009 projection of 6.6% and the 6.8% outturn of FY2008, as export production in the second half of the fiscal year slowed more sharply than expected. Weakening construction activity and power outages pulled back manufacturing growth. Slow implementation of energy projects continued to restrict industry’s expansion, although the new Government (elected in January 2009) has given power generation and gas development a high priority, as outlined in the ruling party’s election manifesto and reflected in a new public–private partnership (PPP) scheme. GDP growth in FY2009 was again driven by consumption expenditure. Accounting for about four fifths of GDP, it grew by 5.8%, up from the previous year’s 5.4%. Growth in private consumption, which constitutes about three quarters of GDP, was, at 6.0%, stronger than FY2008’s 5.5%. Public consumption as a share of GDP declined for the third consecutive year.

National Income Aggregate:

Items 2008-2009* 2007-2008 Changes over previous year
absolute percentage
GDP at current prices, in million Taka 6149432 5458224 691208 12.66%
GNI at current prices, in million Taka 6832305 5942119 890186 14.98%
NNI at current prices, in million Taka 6358229 5518610 839619 15.21%
GDP at constant prices ( base 1995-96 ),in million Taka 3406524 3217260 189264 5.88%
GNI at constant prices ( base 1995-96 ),in million Taka 3784806 3502483 282323 8.06%
Per Capita GDP at current prices, in Taka 42638 38330 4308 11.24%
Per Capita GDP at constant prices (base 1995-96),in Taka 23620 22593 1027 4.55%
Per Capita GNI at current prices, in Taka 47373 41728 5645 13.53%
Per Capita GNI at constant prices (base 1995-96),in Taka 26242 24596 1646 6.69%

Concept of Unemployment


Unemployment occurs when a person is available to work and seeking work but currently without work.

Unemployment Rate:

The prevalence of unemployment is usually measured using the unemployment rate, which is defined as the Percentage of employable people actively seeking work, out of the total number of employable people; determined in a monthly survey by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.


Though many people care about the number of unemployed, economists typically focus on the unemployment rate. This corrects for the normal increase in the number of people employed due to increases in population and increases in the labor force relative to the population. The unemployment rate is expressed as a percentage, and is calculated as follows:

Types Of Unemployment

Mainly, unemployment is two types:

  1. Voluntary Unemployment
  2. Involuntary Unemployment

Though there have been several definitions of voluntary and involuntary unemployment in the economics literature, a simple distinction is often applied. Voluntary unemployment is attributed to the individual’s decisions, whereas involuntary unemployment exists because of the socio-economic environment (including the market structure, government intervention, and the level of aggregate demand) in which individuals operate. In these terms, much or most of frictional unemployment is voluntary, since it reflects individual search behavior. On the other hand, cyclical unemployment, structural unemployment, and classical unemployment, are largely involuntary in nature.

Frictional unemployment:

Frictional unemployment occurs when a worker moves from one job to another. While he searches for a job he is experiencing frictional unemployment. This applies for fresh graduates looking for employment as well. This is a productive part of the economy, increasing both the worker’s long term welfare and economic efficiency, and is also a type of voluntary unemployment.

Classical unemployment:

Classical or real-wage unemployment occurs when real wages for a job are set above the market-clearing level. Libertarian economists like F.A. Hayek argued that unemployment increases the more the government intervenes into the economy to try to improve the conditions of those with jobs.

Cyclical or Keynesian unemployment:

Cyclical or Keynesian unemployment, also known as demand deficient unemployment, occurs when there is not enough aggregate demand in the economy. This is caused by a business cycle recession, and wages not falling to meet the equilibrium level.

Structural unemployment:

Structural unemployment is caused by a mismatch between jobs offered by employers and potential workers. This may pertain to geographical location, skills, and many other factors. If such a mismatch exists, frictional unemployment is likely to be more significant as well.

Seasonal unemployment:

Seasonal unemployment occurs when an occupation is not in demand at certain seasons. This unemployment results from the fluctuations in demands for labour in certain industries because of the seasonal nature of production. In such industries there is a seasonal pattern in the demand for labor. During the period when the industry is at its peak there is a high degree of seasonal employment, but during the off-peak period there is a high seasonal unemployment.

Recent Employment Situation


Employment provides the key link between economic growth and poverty making it the major tool for poverty reduction in Bangladesh. The country’s poverty reduction strategy would be sustainable if it is consistent with a well-articulated employment strategy that creates productive and decent employment opportunities so that workers of every level of skill, education, and training can get remunerative employment. For this, along with economic growth driven by sectors that are labor-intensive in nature and have greater potential of job creation, the policy framework needs to promote an employment-friendly environment, encourage labor-intensive restructuring in both formal and informal sectors, facilitate the skill development of the labor force, and bring about appropriate changes in labor market policies. In addition, the policies must seek to fulfill the aspirations of the people in their working lives including opportunities, incomes, rights, voices, and recognition.

This note examines recent trends in the labor market and employment situation in Bangladesh and draws some policy implications keeping the poverty reduction imperatives in view.

Recent Developments in the Labor Market:

Bangladesh experienced a steady rise in GDP growth during the last five years (2003-2007) when it grew at an average annual rate of more than 6 percent compared with 5 percent over the previous five years. Higher growth, together with a fall in population growth to less than 1.5 percent in recent years, led to a rapid growth in per capita GDP.

Despite higher economic growth, employment grew at a relatively slow rate of 1.6 percent per annum since the 1990s. At the aggregate level, agriculture is still the largest sector of employment providing jobs to 22.8 million compared with 6.9 million in industry and 17.7 million in the services sector in 2006.With the labor force growing faster than the employment potential, the number of unemployed persons increased over time reaching 2.1 million in 2006. Although the ‘standard’ unemployment rate is low at 4.2 percent in 2006, it does not provide a real picture of the supply-demand balance including the degree of inefficiency that prevails in the labor market.For instance, the underemployment rate, calculated on the basis of number of hours worked per week, is high at 24.5 percent in 2006.

Labor force of Bangladesh:

Labor force: 70.86 million

Note: extensive export of labor to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE, Oman, Qatar, and Malaysia; workers’ remittances estimated at $4.8 billion in 2005-06. (2008 est.)

Year Labor force Rank Percent Change Date of Information
2003 64,100,000 9 1999
2004 64,020,000 8 -0.12 % 2003
2005 65,490,000 8 2.30 % 2004 est.
2006 66,600,000 7 1.69 % 2005 est.
2007 68,000,000 7 2.10 % 2006 est.
2008 69,400,000 7 2.06 % 2007 est.
2009 70,860,000 7 2.10 % 2008 est.

Total labor force:

Total labor force grew by 8.8 million during the period (from 40.7 million in FY00 to 49.5 million in FY06) giving an average of nearly 1.5 million new entrants per year. Of the total new entrants, 3.5 million (rising from 8.6 million to 12.1 million) were females and 5.2 million (rising from 32.2 million to 37.4 million) were males. During the period, the rural labor force grew by 6.3 million (from 31.5 million to 37.8 million) of which 2.9 million were females (rising from 6.4 million to 9.3 million). On the other hand, urban labor force grew by 2.5 million (from 9.2 million to 11.7 million) of which 0.6 million (rising from 2.2 million to 2.8 million) were females.

Employed labor force:

Total employed labor force increased by 8.4 million (from 39.0 million to 47.4 million) of which 3.4 million (rising from 7.9 million to 11.3 million) were females and 5.0 million (rising from 31.1 million to 36.1 million) were males. Rural employed labor force grew by 5.8 million (from 30.3 million to 36.1 million) of which 2.7 million (rising from 5.9 million to 8.6 million) were females; while urban employed labor grew by 2.6 million (from 8.7 million to 11.3 million) of which 0.7 million (rising from 2.0 million to 2.7 million) were females.

Unemployed labor force:

The overall unemployment rate declined marginally from 4.3 percent in FY00 to 4.2 percent in FY06; the male unemployment rate remained unchanged at 3.4 percent while that for females declined from 7.8 percent to 7.0 percent. The underemployment rate, however, increased sharply from 16.6 percent to 24.5 percent. The male underemployment rate was 10.9 percent in 2006; while the underemployment rate for females was staggering at 68.3 percent.

Employment by sector:

In terms of sector of employment, agriculture provided employment to 22.8 million (48 percent), industry to 6.9 million (15 percent), and services sector to 17.7 million (37 percent) in 2006. This may be seen in the backdrop of the shares of contribution of these sectors to GDP in the same year, which were 22 percent for agriculture, 29 percent for industry, and 49 percent for the services sector.

Formal and informal sector employment:

Of the total employed labor, 10.2 million (22 percent) were employed in the formal sector while the remaining 78 percent were employed in the informal sector. Over the six year period between 2000 and 2006, only 0.6 million new jobs were created in the formal sector. The share of females in the formal sector employment is low at around 16 percent. Of the total female employed labor, only 14 percent are employed in the formal sector compared with a similar share of nearly 24 percent for male labor.

Unemployment rate of Bangladesh:

Unemployment rate: 2.5% (2008 est.)
2.5% (2007 est.)

Year Unemployment rate Rank Percent Change Date of Information
2003 40.00 % 12 2002 est.
2004 40.00 % 14 0.00 % 2002 est.
2005 40.00 % 178 0.00 % 2004 est.
2006 2.50 % 22 -93.75 % 2005 est.
2007 2.50 % 23 0.00 % 2006 est.
2008 2.50 % 27 0.00 % 2007 est.
2009 2.50 % 27 0.00 % 2008 est.

Employment status:

In terms of status in employment, self-employed workers form the largest category providing jobs to 42 percent of the total employed labor force in 2006 followed by 22 percent by unpaid family helpers, 18 percent by day laborers, 14 percent by employees, and 4 percent by employer and other categories. Of the reported 8.4 million new jobs, unpaid family helper category contributed more than two-thirds of the new jobs while self-employed labor contributed another 20 percent during 2000-2006. The number of employers did not change while the contribution of employees to total additional job creation was only 1 percent. Female workers are especially disadvantaged in terms of quality of employment. Of the 10.3 million laborers who are employed as unpaid family workers, 6.8 million (66 percent) were female workers in 2006. This also shows that, of the 11.3 million female labor employed in 2006, 60 percent work as unpaid family workers while similar share for male employed labor is less than 10 percent.

Educational Status For Labour Force

The level of productivity and earnings and, hence the access to remunerative employment, of an individual is positively related to his/her level of education. With significant increase in enrollment rates in Bangladesh, the educational profile of the labor force has somewhat improved over the years creating better potential for skill development. The available information on the level of education of the youth labor force shows that the share of the labor force with no education significantly declined since the 1980s (42 percent in 2003 compared with 62 percent in 1984) while the proportion of the labor force with basic schooling (grades 1-5) and secondary education (grades 6-10) increased: from 18 percent to 19 percent having primary education and from 12 percent to 25 percent with secondary education. The proportion of the labor force with no education, however, remains particularly high amongst rural and female workers. During 2003, 47 percent of the female workers had no education compared with 40 percent of the male labor. Moreover, only 5 percent of the employed labor was engaged in professional and technical occupation in 2006. This shows the urgent need to give due importance, along with better access to education, to technical and vocational training for the labor force to increase productivity and ensure wider diffusion of better technologies.

Underemployment Issues

Conceptually, the notion of underemployment is related to a situation when a person’s employment is inadequate in terms of hours of work, income earnings, productivity and use of skills, and the person is looking for better or additional work in conformity with his/her education and skills. In practice, the measurement of underemployment faces a number of difficulties and the adopted methodology in Bangladesh is to estimate underemployment on the basis of hours worked alone. The adopted norm is to treat those who work less than 35 hours during the reference week of the survey as underemployed.

The perception of the labor market substantially changes when underemployment is taken into account in assessing the status of the labor force in Bangladesh. The information on hours worked shows that a total of 15.1 million (which is about 35 per cent of the employed labor of 44.3 million) were underemployed in 2003. This shows an extremely high level in the number of the people who work less than 35 hours per week. Also the information shows high incidence of underemployment in rural areas and among the female labor force. During 2003, the share of the employed labor force who worked less than 35 hours per week was nearly 36.4 percent in the rural areas compared with 26.7 percent in the urban areas and was as high as 72.3 percent among females against 23.1 percent for males. Of the total number of underemployed labor, nearly 47 per cent were females.

Youth unemployment:

Youth employment has a special significance in Bangladesh since the nature and extent of employment of the youth is an important indicator of the additional employment generating capacity of the economy. Alternatively, the extent of unemployment of youth labor indicates the failure of the growth process to create enough jobs for the new entrants to the labor force and, consequently, the loss of potential income and welfare.

In quantitative terms, nearly 35 percent of the labor force in 2006 consisted of youth labor (15-29 years) although the share of youth is about 40.6 percent in total working aged population (15 years and above). Between 2000 and 2006, although the total labor force increased by nearly 9 million, the number of youth labor increased by 2.8 million.

Gender inequality:

A close view on some major indicators shows the existence of high gender difference in economically active population in Bangladesh. Out of a total labor force of 40.7 million in 2000, females constituted only 8.6 million (21 per cent) which rose to 12.1 million (24 percent) of total labor force of 49.5 million in 2006. The share of female employed labor in total employed labor is very similar (20 percent and 24 per cent for the two years respectively). This shows that 29.4 million out of 35.1 million persons (84 per cent) who are not in the labor force are women. The figures also show that the sectoral pattern of employment of female workers is somewhat more diversified. Around 68 percent of the female workers are employed in agriculture, forestry and fisheries sectors compared with 42 percent for the male workers (Table 1).

Table 1: Gender differences in labor force, 2006

(In million)

Female Male Total
1. Economically active population 12.1 37.4 49.5
2. Unemployed population 0.9 1.2 2.1
3. Not in labor force 29.4 5.7 35.1
4. Employed population 11.3 36.1 47.4
Sectoral distribution of employed population
a. Agriculture, forestry, and fisheries 7.7 15.1 22.8
b. Industry 1.4 5.5 6.9
c. Services 2.2 15.5 17.7

Source: 2005-2006 Labor Force Survey, BBS.

Table 2: Employment status of female and male workers, 2006

(In million)

Female Male Total
A. Sector
Formal 1.6 8.6 10.2
Informal 9.7 27.5 37.2
Total 11.3 36.1 47.4
B. Status
Regular paid employee 1.3 5.3 6.6
Employer 0 0.1 0.1
Self-employed 1.8 18.1 19.9
Unpaid family worker 6.8 3.5 10.3
Irregular paid worker 0.2 0.8 1.0
Day laborer 0.7 7.9 8.6
Domestic worker/maid servant 0.3 0 0.3
Others 0.2 0.4 0.6
Total 11.3 36.1 47.4

Source: 2005-2006 Labor Force Survey, BBS.

In terms of earnings, paid female workers receive much less compared with their male counterparts. The information from the 2003 labor force survey shows that, in the case of paid day laborers, the daily average wage for males in rural areas was 68 percent higher than the average female wage. In urban areas, similar difference was 79 percent. For the salaried workers, 20 percent of the females compared with only 9 percent of the males earned Tk. 1,000 or less per month. On the other hand, only 31 percent female workers earned more than Tk. 2,500 per month while similar share was 63 percent for male workers. The disadvantaged situation of women is also evident in the case of all other categories of employment. In view of the persistence of low wages for female workers and significant gender differences across all sectors and all categories of workers in the labor market, it is important for Bangladesh to ensure better paid work along with better paid employment opportunities for women to promote growth with equity and address the gender related concerns of human rights, efficiency and well being.

Employment Outlook:

The total number of employed labor was 47.4 million in 2006. Since no data on recent employment situation are available, this section provides estimated employment in FY07 and FY08 and projected employment in FY09 using sectoral employment coefficients.

The employment coefficients of different sub-sectors in agriculture are still high relative to other sectors despite the adoption of modern and, in some cases, labor saving technologies in different agricultural operations. The estimated employment coefficients show that in FY06, 36 jobs were created per million Taka of value addition in agriculture compared with 8 in industry and 12 in services sector.

Table 3: Projected labor market situation

(In million)

2005-06 FY07 (estimated) FY08 (estimated) FY09 (projected)
Total labor force 49.50 50.60 51.80 53.04
Employed laborUnemployed labor 47.432.07 48.492.11 49.742.06 51.051.99
Unemployment rate 4.18 4.17 3.98 3.76

Source: 2005-06 Labor Force Survey, BBS

Table 4: Projected employment in major sectors

(In million)

Sector 2005-06 FY07 (estimated) FY08 (estimated) FY09 (projected)
1. Agriculture Crops and horticulture



22.83 20.93



22.89 20.95



23.41 21.37



24.07 21.96



2. Industry Mining and quarrying


Electricity, gas and water supply


6.90 0.10




7.08 0.11




7.20 0.12




7.43 0.13




3. Services Trade, hotel & restaurants

Transport, storage & communication

Finance, business services and real estate

Health, education, public admin and defense

Community, social and personal services

17.70 7.80





18.52 8.29





19.13 8.46





19.55 8.50





Total 47.43 48.49 49.74 51.05

Source: 2005-06 Labor Force Survey, BBS

The employment coefficient is defined as the number of labor employed per unit of output (value added) in a specific sector of the economy. Under the methodology, total employment is estimated as:

Lt = ? Ljt = ? lj V jt

where, Lt is total number of employed labor in year t, Ljt is number of employed labor in sector j in year t, lj is the employment coefficient of sector j, and V jt is the output (value added) of sector j in year t.

The projected labor market situation during FY09 is summarized in Tables 3 and 4. Taking LFS 2005-06 labor supply and demand as the base, total labor force is estimated to grow to 50.6 million, 51.8 million, and 53.0 million in FY07, FY08 and FY09 respectively. In FY07, the number of employed labor is estimated at 48.5 million leaving a total of 2.1 million people unemployed. This gives an unemployment rate of 4.2 percent in FY07. In FY08, the estimated number of employed labor is 49.7 million leaving 2.1 million as unemployed resulting in an unemployment rate of nearly 4.0 percent. The projected employment level in FY09 is 51.1 million indicating an unemployment rate of 3.8 percent. The projected employment by broad economic sectors, as shown in Table 4, shows that agriculture and services sectors are likely to create most of the additional employment whereas employment in industry is likely to increase marginally largely due to additional employment creation in the construction sub-sector

Unemployment as a major issue:

Unemployment is a great concern in Bangladesh. Every year hundreds of thousands student are coming out from college and university. Though it is one of the major responsibilities of the Government to provide job to those young generation but the Government is failed to meet the job demand among the large population. Only a tiny fraction of total jobless is managed by different government offices and private organization but a majority remain unemployed.

According to a study of the International Labor Organization (ILO), the rate of growth of unemployment in Bangladesh was 1.9 per cent in the decade of the nineties. But the growth in unemployment currently is 3.7 per cent. The ILO figures also show Bangladesh in the twelfth position among the top twenty countries in the world where unemployment is rising.
The number of the unemployed in Bangladesh now is estimated at 30 million. The way the rate of unemployment is increasing, it is feared that at this rate unemployment would soar to some 60 million by 2015. According to another estimate, every year some 2.7 million young persons are becoming eligible for jobs whereas only about 0.7 million of them are getting employment. The number of the ‘disguised unemployed’ an economic term meaning underemployed people or employed to a degree less than their potential, is some 32 per cent.
The huge number of the unemployed and the underemployed in the workforce gives an idea of the number of the parasitic ones in the population. Employed persons not only consume from the economy but they also contribute to the economy through production activities and discharge of various services. The unemployed people in contrast only live off the economy or their families and society. They are an absolute burden on the state. Not only being liabilities in the economic sense, politically and socially they are considered to be a source of tension and turmoil. The linkage between unemployment and crimes is obvious. Therefore, all governments in Bangladesh will need to address the unemployment issue very seriously indeed before it turns worse. The recent floods and the devastating Sidr storm plus the restructuring activities leading to retrenchment of workers from state operated enterprises, have added to the unemployment problem. Government will have to start up urgently different work programmes like road building and repairs, reconstruction of infrastructures, etc., specially in the rural areas and continue them for some time, to mitigate the worst woes of the jobless ones at the grass roots level. .

But for the medium and longer terms, the present interim government which is doing path breaking works in vital areas should also adopt a plan of action to tackle unemployment. It can start such a plan and leave gradual implementation of it to successor governments. Insufficient investments have been frustrating the creation of new employment opportunities in Bangladesh. Government here needs to identify each of the factors that can contribute to a better investment climate. The same would include improvement of law and order, much lowering of the interest rate on borrowings, addition to and up gradation of infrastructures to be supportive of enterprising, fiscal policies that create level playing fields for local entrepreneurs in relation to foreign competitors, fiscal incentives such as tax reduction and tax exemption, etc.

Government will need to act imaginatively and effectively in relation to each of the above factors and more to improve the investment climate that in turn would accelerate economic activities and make the desired impact on the unemployment situation. However, there is also a need to be clear about the policies to be pursued to create employment. New enterprises will absorb the unemployed. But capital intensive enterprises will employ a smaller number than labor intensive ones which will understandably employ a greater number. Thus, enterprise with labor intensive character should be identified and encouraged.
Government can make a big contribution towards reducing unemployment by also building and operating a large number of training institutions to train the jobless ones in different vocations for them to be fit enough to take up employment in the country, to go abroad for doing jobs or to engage in self-employment. Government’s ample spending for skill development is all the more necessary because private sectors may prefer not to invest in this area out of a consideration of low profits. The high costs of skill training under the private sector is also likely to exclude most seekers of such training on the ground of their inability to pay for the training. Thus, government’s role as a skill trainer is very important. But government can expect to recover the investments it will make in this area by receiving regular payments in installments from people who would get jobs after such training.


In view of the current compulsions, several elements should feed into developing an appropriate employment strategy for Bangladesh:

· Public–private partnerships for transforming growing sub-sectors into creators of quality jobs through diversification and moving toward higher value added products.

· The small and medium enterprises (SMEs) constitute an essential feature of growth-oriented sub-sectors with prospects of generating employment opportunities in formal and informal sectors through creating a new class of entrepreneurs. Flourishing of SMEs requires creation of supportive policy and regulatory environments including easy access to the credit market.

· Implementation of policies, measures, and programs aimed at improving productivity and earnings in the informal economy.

· Greater importance to human capital covering higher education, core competencies, more relevant technical skills, health and nutrition, and similar other measures to match domestic as well as global demand of the labor market.

· Effective social dialogue as the cornerstone of creating facilitating work environment and ensure full participation of workers in creating and sharing the value in a growth-oriented economy.

· Local production and marketing system comprising numerous small entities facilitated through supportive mechanisms.

· Encouragements to growth of selected sub-sectors that can help improve job quality and generate employment not only in enterprises, but also in the supply chain.

· Proper attention needs to be given to various social safety net programs for providing employment and other benefits especially to socially and physically vulnerable population by increasing their coverage and allocations.

· Looking for new destinations and new professions for the youth educated labor to meet the international labor market demand where necessary steps need to taken to beep up technical education for the youth population to match the international demand.


In Bangladesh, labor force participation is growing at a faster pace than the current employment generating capacity of the economy making it difficult for the country to absorb the incremental labor force in productive and remunerative employment. As such, the country needs higher and more employment intensive economic growth for which adoption of several complementary approaches could be useful, such as giving priority to more employment friendly growth policies, widening micro credit based and targeted employment generating programs and special schemes for new job creation especially in rural areas, and increasingly tapping overseas employment opportunities focusing on skill intensive jobs in the global market.

The poverty characteristics in the country show that agricultural labor households have a high incidence of poverty as do non-agricultural casual and unskilled workers. These characteristics indicate that labor is the main asset and the income source of the poor households in Bangladesh. For reducing poverty, policies therefore need to increase the returns to labor in both agriculture and non-agricultural activities and enable the poor to get more remunerative jobs in other sectors. Thus a virtuous cycle of rapid and labor intensive growth of the rural economy is necessary for which investments in education and skill development of the poor, giving them access to finance and technology, and ensuring the availability of basic infrastructure services in the rural areas are important facilitating factors. In the backdrop of persistence of low wages for female workers and significant gender differences across all categories of workers in the labor market, it is important to address the issue of better employment opportunities along with social and financial safety nets for women workers to ensure growth with equity. The policy framework needs to promote an employment friendly environment and support an employment led growth strategy through which Bangladesh can expand the opportunities for women and men to obtain productive and remunerative work.

In Bangladesh, economic progress and well-being of the people hinges largely on the development and sustenance of a strong and vibrant industrial sector which in turn depends on rapid growth of small and medium enterprises (SMEs). It is recognized that SMEs have a significant role in employment generation, poverty reduction, and overall economic growth in Bangladesh. The SMEs typically constitute labor intensive industries with relatively low capital intensity. As such for a country like Bangladesh which is labor abundant and capital scarce, SMEs have a natural comparative advantage. Therefore, particular attention needs to be given to policies that promote SME activities with increased participation of women and for developing entrepreneurship in formal and informal sectors. In recognition of the strategic importance of SMEs in promoting industrial growth, employment generation and poverty alleviation, the SME sector has already been declared as a priority sector and various measures have been initiated to help maximize growth of SMEs which in turn would help in generating employment and reducing poverty in the country over time.