As per the latest population census, most of our population within a few years will be in the workforce, which has surely opened the demographic window of opportunity. Moreover, at present, there are 158 UGC listed public and private universities in Bangladesh. The number of public universities is 50 while private universities is 108. There are also 2278 colleges affiliated which have about 2.8 million students under the national university. These considerable number of students will be in the workforce within a few years.
Certainly, it is quite impossible to accommodate these huge numbers of fresh graduates in government employment. But to exploit the demographic dividend window of opportunity and to take advantage of this transition, these graduates need to be employed in different private sectors along with public employment.
It is estimated that the golden period of demographic dividend in Bangladesh will last until around 2033, when the more onerous adult reliance reaches significant proportions. If the golden years are not utilized properly to achieve economic growth, Bangladesh would be confronted with the demographic calamity or the demographic time bomb.
Historically, industrial revolution and pandemic rarely met. This unique combination has put us in a challenging reality particularly for this youth population into the job market. The Fourth Industrial Revolution which is also known as 4IR brought up the newly offered knowledge and practices including combination of artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, the Internet of Things (IoT), 3D printing, genetic engineering, quantum computing, block chain and other advanced technologies.
It has shaped traditional manufacturing and industrial practices into automation; diagnosing systems that require no human intervention by using modern smart technology. It has also created fundamental changes in the way we live, work and relate to one another.
On the other hand, COVID-19 has accelerated the Fourth Industrial Revolution all around the world by increasing demand for online meetings or conferences, online working, e-learning, e-commerce, subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) services, gaming etc. The pandemic has made everything – work, study, entertainment, communications, shopping – increasingly dependent on technology. This has also impacted the youth of Bangladesh seeking jobs or internships despite virtual jobs not being well paid.
Job seekers had to go through a lot of online procedures as well. The prospective employees and students looked for employment using various professional social media platforms like: LinkedIn, bdjobs and company websites. Applicants submitted resumes followed by filing of multiple online forms.
They sat for tests to show their competence and aptitude for specific fields of work with arrays of problem solving case studies, which are also taken through online platforms. They faced online interviews via Google meet or Zoom or WhatsApp Business. Then after hopefully being selected, they may choose to work from home in all available working hours or switch between offline and online depending on the complexity of work.
The newly created working environment caused by both COVID and 4IR was quite new to us but gradually, this working culture was adopted by many businesses and employees both in private and public sectors.
Firstly, it is high time to transform our conventional education system to new knowledge landscape. Universities must concentrate on research for newly emerging knowledge funded and supported by private sectors. Otherwise, millions of graduates will be the burden of our job market and we will fail to materialize the blessing of demographic dividends.
Secondly, alternative careers like; medical technician, automobile engineering, agritech, food technologist and others unsought disciplines should be promoted by government and private sectors to employ.
Thirdly, specialized trade skills must be the prime concurrence by technical colleges and universities as per the requirements of employers.
Lastly, our society and family members need to change their mindset so that the youth feel encouraged and respected to contribute to the economy and society.