Quality employment still remains far from what the incumbent government had promised in its election manifesto albeit there is some progress in a few areas, said the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) at a discussion on Saturday.
The overall progress is not sufficient to create the targeted number of quality jobs, it said.
While speaking at the event organised by the CPD at a city hotel yesterday, economists and policymakers observed that the government is falling behind in attaining its specific goals concerning decent employment because of the fallout of the Covid pandemic.
"Workers will be able to bargain on wages and other facilities only when they will be skilled," Barrister Shamim Haider Patwary, legislator from the Jatiya Party, said at the discussion entitled "Commitment to National Development: Education, Quality Employment, Gender".
In the past 14 years and even before that, the government did not have any substantive plans, projects, and outcome in terms of skill development, he noted.
"We are still sending workers to the Middle East for the same salary as it was 10 years ago. The government should have a role to play in skill up people and ensure that no one does injustice to the workers due to demand-supply shortages," he added.
Lawmaker Shirin Akhter, "We are talking about a decent work environment. But wages our garment workers get are the lowest in the world."
Noting that the government's pledge to bring the unemployment rate down to 1.2% by 2023 is yet to be fulfilled, the CPD said the government aims to add 1.1 crore new people to the workforce during this period.
According to ILO data, Bangladesh's unemployment in 2021 was 5.2%, but youth unemployment stood at 11%.
"Election manifestos are prepared from the top, not from the bottom. It is evident that people's opinions and needs are not reflected in them," the CPD came to the conclusion following some 90 courtyard meetings (community meetings) conducted in 15 districts across the country.
These sessions, with participation of 918 people including 458 females, were conducted in the last two years to understand the level of involvement of the people in the process of formulation and implementation of election manifestos.
Dr Khondaker Golam Moazzem, research director of the CPD, said, "There is no wage disparity in government jobs and some private sector jobs, but it still exists in the informal sector."
Female day-labourers still face a huge wage discrimination compared to their male counterparts, he also said, adding that a male worker gets Tk400-450 a day, while it is only Tk200-250 for a female worker.
He suggested taking necessary measures in this regard.
Regarding the election manifesto, he said, "People have said that they are not as close as they used to be with the public representatives before the elections."
Dr Tofail Ahmed, a local government expert said, "And now, the bond between the public and their representatives is completely missing because of the exciting electoral system."
Regarding the ongoing economic ordeal, he said, "We need a crash programme to deal with the post-Covid economic crisis."
Attending the event as chief guest, Planning Minister MA Mannan said the government is implementing its election promises.
"The needs and requirements of the rural and urban people are not the same. Villagers want various allowances, access to water and sanitation, bridges and roads," he said, adding, "Only decent employment will ensure development. Voters of the country want a stable environment and employment. The current government is working to that end," he added.
Minister Mannan also said corrupt practices by agriculture officials, tehsildars (land officials), and union parishad secretaries at the union level must be stopped.
Mentioning that tehsildars and UP secretaries are the most powerful and corrupt government officials at the union level, he said marginalised people are deprived of expected services because of this. He, therefore, asked for strict surveillance in this respect.
'Recruitment of teachers not based on merit, skills'
The appointment of teachers in schools and colleges of the country, especially in the MPO-listed institutions, is not done based on an individual's merit and skills, said the CPD after the consultation at the field level.
As per the CPD, people were very sceptical and raised a number of questions regarding the recruitment of teachers in educational institutions.
Dr Khondaker Golam Moazzem, research director of the CPD, said, "People want more transparency and accountability when it comes to teachers' recruitment."
Echoing the same, Dr Tofail Ahmed, said, "We lack an adequate number of teachers, who are well trained for the jobs in primary and secondary educational institutions. This matter needs to be addressed."
Dr Fahmida Khatun, executive director of the CPD, moderated the inaugural event.
The day-long conference was supported by the United Nations Democracy Fund (UNDEF).