Bangladesh ranked third from the bottom among South Asian nations on the Global Youth Development Index 2020, reflecting the country's weak performance in securing equality and economic inclusion as well as employment opportunities for young people.
The triennial rankings, released on Tuesday by the Commonwealth Secretariat in London, put Bangladesh in 126th position out of 181 countries, only ahead of Pakistan (162nd) and Afghanistan (178th) in South Asia.
Sudipto Mukerjee, resident representative of the United Nations Development Programme in Bangladesh, told an event on Wednesday about 80 lakh people in the 15-24 age group in the country belong to NEET.
According to the International Labour Organisation, the NEET rate is 40% in Bangladesh, and most of them are women, he said.
He also said about 20 lakh young Bangladeshis become adults every year.
He suggested large-scale changes in the education curriculum to utilise this cohort in economy.
The data used to compile the index was gathered before the Covid-19 pandemic. It revealed that the conditions of young people in Bangladesh had improved by 12.4% between 2010 and 2018, but progress remains slow.
Even though Bangladesh improved its overall score to 0.616 in 2018, it remains below the global average of 0.680, where scoring 1 represents the highest possible level of youth development. The country's score was 0.548 in 2010.
With an outstanding youth development score of 0.794, the Maldives topped the index in South Asia and ranked 39th globally, on the back of its development in youth education as well as health and well-being.
Sri Lanka ranked second in the region and 61st globally, with a score of 0.747.
Bhutan, Nepal, and India ranked third, fourth, and fifth respectively and 77th, 94th, and 122nd globally.
On a surprising note, Vietnam, Bangladesh's main competitor in readymade garment, ranked 63rd, 63 spots ahead of Bangladesh.
The index grouped four levels of youth development based on the overall score – very high, high, medium, and low. Bangladesh fell within the medium category.
Singapore has the highest level of youth development, followed by Slovenia, Norway, Malta, and Denmark while Chad has the lowest.
The index, based on six domains of youth development, tracked the performance of countries between 2010 and 2018 in education, employment and opportunity, health and wellbeing, equality and inclusion, political and civic participation, and peace and security.
Bangladesh's performance across domains
Bangladesh is among the top 10 worst performers in the equality and inclusion domain. It ranked 174th with a score of 0.561.
This domain has five indicators – youth gender parity in not in education, employment or training (NEET), safety and security, literacy, early marriage, and economic marginalisation.
The Labour Force Survey 2016-17 by Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics put the number of NEET youths at around 74 lakh.
Bangladesh is also among the top 10 worst performers in the employment and opportunity domain. It ranked 172nd with a score of 0.526.
This domain has four indicators – proportion of youth in NEET, underemployment, adolescent fertility rate, and share of youth who report having an account at a bank or other financial institutions.
The country did relatively better in the health and wellbeing indicator, ranking 42nd with a score of 0.809.
It scored 0.681 in the peace and security domain and ranked 105th.
Bangladesh recorded 40.16% improvement in youth education since 2010. Yet, it ranked 116th with a score 0.705 in this domain.
The report highlighted that the virus could reverse for the first time the positive trajectory of youth development unless urgent action is taken to secure the pre-pandemic gains.