Volatility in the job market and the Fourth Industrial Revolution -Md. Eyasin Arafat


When someone moves into Dhaka’s Street, it’s not possible to forward without clashing with others. I feel apathetic to go outside for recreation or enjoyment because of the physical and mental stress it creates which is more than the refreshment I get. Sometimes subconsciously I say, ‘It’s not possible to live in this city anymore, I must leave this city. Why so much population and congestion?’
Here are many reasons behind these kinds of problems but we commonly mention the large size of our population. But the population is not a real problem of any country rather it can be turned into the most precious resource by making them skilled and competent. Skilled human resource is a blessing.
Demographic Dividend: It is said that Bangladesh is enjoying a demographic dividend since 2007 and it will close around 2040. Demographic dividend refers to the total number of working-age people (age 14 to 60) being more than the dependent population (less than 14 and more than 60). At present, more than 65 percent of the individuals in Bangladesh are of working age. Nearly 49 percent are among the age of 24 or less. This 49 percent is a long-standing time of the country. But, are we using the advantage? Have we had enough plans and policies to grab this golden opportunity, both nationally and individually? The replies are not very attractive.

Unemployment scenario in Bangladesh:
Frequently we hear the sorrowful news of suicide among youth, especially students. In most cases, the unemployment problem works as the root cause of suicide. According to The International Labour Organization (ILO), the unemployment rate in Bangladesh is nearly 5.4%. A large number (around 87 percent) of the population are engaged in informal employment. The unemployment rate is higher, 47 percent, among the educated, according to the 2016 Labour Force Survey by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS).
The educated unemployment rate is also three times higher than the number of illiterate people in Bangladesh. Again, based on the level of education, the unemployment rate is higher among the highly educated. The unemployment rate of higher secondary graduates is almost four times higher than that of secondary graduates and three times higher among university graduates.
Unemployment among university graduates is about 10 percent. At least 66 percent of graduates from colleges affiliated with the National University are not getting jobs, according to a 2021 survey by the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies.
According to data from the National Employment Policy 2020 (draft), around 26 lakh people seek to join the job market in Bangladesh every year. The majority of this working population remains unemployed due to a lack of jobs. But a surprise is employers say different things. They allege that they are not getting enough skilled applicants for vacant posts.
According to a report by Transparency International, Bangladesh (TIB) published in February 2020 says that at least 2.5 lakh foreigners are employed both legally and illegally in Bangladesh and they remit to their home countries $6 billion every year. And also, the foreigners working in Bangladesh are illegally sending around $3 billion to their countries a year. Every year, the Bangladesh government is losing revenues worth Tk 12,000 crore,’ said the TIB report.
The foreigners from 44 countries are employed in more than 20 trades in both regular and irregular ways in Bangladesh, the report said. “Much of the inbound remittance is countermanded by outbound remittance sent by the foreigners employed in Bangladesh,” says many a noted economist and think-tank. If our universities could produce graduates with high-level skills required by the job market, they would have replaced foreigners and saved huge foreign currencies.
Over time, history has witnessed several industrial “revolutions”. The First Industrial Revolution used water and steam power to mechanize production. The Second used electric power to create mass production. The Third used electronics and information technology to automate production.
Now, the Fourth Industrial Revolution is building on the Third, the digital revolution, that has been occurring since the middle of the last century. It has added Intelligence to the third industrial revolution and changed the whole scenario while the 4IR comes up with new challenges replacing traditional jobs with automation. We can’t survive without participating in the fourth industrial revolution (IR 4.00). So, we must find out the challenges and prepare to overcome them.

Future probable challenges of IR 4.00
According to a report by World Economic Forum (WEF), 800 million people will lose their job worldwide by 2030. Due to lacking new skills, almost 7.5 million trained expatriate Bangladeshi may lose their job. A machine may be the replacement for 10 people. The most remarkable challenge of IR 4.00 is the pace of this revolution and the recent covid-19 pandemic has accelerated its progress worldwide. According to the World Economic Forum, 65 percent of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in completely new job types that don’t yet exist
In Bangladesh, we already have an unbearable unemployment problem. The challenges of IR 4.0 will be like pouring water on a drowned mouse for us if we can’t adapt to it. Last four decades our economy has boomed and industries have also grown. But it is not knowledge-based rather cheap labor is the main fact of our industries. For example, what happens in our largest industry, RMG? Clothing merchants and retailers worldwide sent their clothes to Bangladeshi RMG factories to be cut, sewn, folded, packed and then shipped back to their stores. There is nothing more value addition in the supply chain from our side. Just imagine such a factory deployed with industrial robots that can do all these tasks without any errors (read wastages), and do it at ten times the speed, without any human intervention.
The robots charged with 4IR technologies like, artificial intelligence, 3D printing, augment or virtual reality, etc., will be able to perform more efficiently and precisely, thus boosting the output. This will encourage merchants and retailers to set up such factories in their countries and avoid middlemen and shipment delays. Then this trend could result in a drastic fall in orders for our RMG industry. A study by a2i says 60% of garment workers will be at risk of losing their jobs by the year 2030
The 4IR technologies will easily replace not only manual labor but also substitute many knowledge workers. According to a Bloomberg report, clerks, loan officers, insurance underwriters, paralegals, retail salespersons, and many more may lose their jobs to intelligent machines.

The positive side of IR.4.00:
We are worried about upcoming technological unemployment but history says technological innovations have always created more jobs than they have made obsolete. John Maynard Keynes, an economist, coined the term ‘technological unemployment’ which is caused by the application of new technology and destructs some jobs in the short run. But as innovation enhances productivity and increases wealth resulting in increased demand for products and services, more jobs are created in the long run. The total outcome of this creation and destruction depends on how the workforce goes through the transition. And how the transition goes is highly dependent on government policies and how well the skill upgrade of human resources is executed. It is expected that high-income cognitive jobs and low-income manual jobs will increase in demand.

Causes of unemployment and probable remedies
When will visit any public library or reading room we see a large number of students are passing a very busy time preparing themselves to get a government job. We see a deep shadow of depression in their eyes. Maybe someone should help his/her family financially but he/she is not capable to do this because he/she is still unemployed. But why the unemployment rate is so acute among educated people and youth? There have various factors behind the problem.

Industry-Accademia Gap and a lower standard of the education system:
First of all, our education system has a serious lacking regarding creating employability among students. For example: learning an international language is an important skill in today’s job market. In a normal distribution, our students are spending 12 years or more learning English grammar till HSC but still, they are struggling even to understand English daily after reading. It is only an example but this indicates the wrong way of teaching and learning methods at primary and secondary levels of education in our country. We are neither making researchers nor activists at the tertiary level. There are no remarkable research-based activities for knowledge creation in our universities. What we study in a textbook, many of its don’t need anywhere in real life. In most cases, our teachers are not well-versed in what they are tutoring their students. We are just creating one after new and new universities, teaching some traditional discipline in stereotype methods without creating proper job fields and employability among the students. That’s why the unemployment rate is increasing proportionately with the increasing pool of graduates and GPA-5. The focus of education should change from memorizing to building capabilities of active listening, creativity, linking education to reality, self-learning, teamwork, analytical capability, and empathy.
Lack of Vocational education and quality: We have a serious shortage of skilled employees in a different sector. Still, now we are almost fully dependable on foreign country experts and laborers for different technical job fields. But we have a huge youth population, we can proper train them with vocational education and can attain self-dependency in health professionals, health aids, STEM professionals, technicians, and wellness. Switzerland has a 70% rate of secondary school students taking part in vocational training and the country has recently been acknowledged by the World Economic Forum to have the most highly skilled workers in the world. But we think those who are less intelligent should go for vocational education, it’s a social taboo. At the same time, the quality of learning and transfer of training opportunities in the existing system is very poor.
Stereotype career choice: In the recent trend of career choice, interest in a government job is increasing dramatically in Bangladesh. There have several reasons behind this, such as job security, social and family demand, the possibility of additional income, and others. As the number of job posts for government jobs is very limited, surely a large portion of job seekers will be deprived. Those who are taking preparation for government jobs only memorize some guidebook and not developing other necessary skills for the labor market. Thus, they are spending 4 to 6 years without doing anything even after the competition of graduation. A common scenario is students opting for MP3 (a guidebook for govt. job) instead of their academic book during classes. As a result, they are deprived of acquiring in-depth knowledge of their study subject in universities. Which is the opposite of the purpose of higher education. Educational institutes can divide their student population into two groups- one group will carry out research and learn theories as usual while the other group will specifically train to join the labor force by learning practical skills. 3/2 years theory and 2/1 years practical
Dishonest uses of IT: We are getting an increasing number of social media and internet-addicted people, especially students according to different research data. They are wasting their valuable time here without learning anything necessary. It is hampering their study as well as their health also. So, we shouldn’t use IT only for entertainment but also for knowledge gathering and problem-solving. We have to grow awareness and make education meaningful and closer to their practical life.
Lack of govt. support, policy, and plan: We are not seeing any remarkable and persistent policy and plan by the government. Demographically, Bangladesh is mostly youth-based. More than 30% of its population is currently under the age of 15. This age group must be developed with the right skill set for Industry 4.0. Problem-solving, interpersonal skills, creative thinking, and adaptability – these are going to be the top in-demand skills in this revolutionary age. And these are the skills we are not taught in school. Keeping IR.4.00 and demographic evident in mind government has to develop proper, long-term, sustainable policies and plan for human resource development. Because of changing and increasing demand of job market govt. has to take initiative for the upskilling and reskilling program. India opened a separate Ministry for Human Resources and managed to assess the human resources required for existing and potential industrial sectors. Bangladesh should follow this.
Lack of private sector growth: In contrast to the supply of recent graduates each year, the employment market has barely grown. Inadequate investments in the public and commercial sectors are to blame. For a while, private sector investment remained constant at 22 to 23 percent of GDP. This slow expansion of private investment limits the potential for new job growth. Furthermore, the manufacturing sector’s inadequate diversification also hurts employment growth. According to data from 2020, Bangladesh is ranked 168th out of 190 economies in the “ease of doing business” ranking, which is not encouraging for the flow of foreign direct investment.
Lack of awareness regarding Career choice: Our youth and students are very much confused about their future career and career choice. They can’t take the right decision at right time. There has a lacking of mentorship. So, we should arrange different workshops, seminars, and fairs for the students and youth to inform them about career opportunities and ways. We should appoint career counselors at every educational institution to help students identify their strengths, prepare curriculum vitae and job applications, and engage in entrepreneurship from an early age.
Writer: a student of the PGD-GB program IBA, DU, and the Department of Management Studies, Jagannath University.