Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) recently released the Labor Force Survey 2022 report. According to BBS survey, the number of unemployed in the country is 26 lakh 30 thousand, of which 16 lakh 90 thousand are men and 9 lakh 40 thousand are women. At that time the unemployment rate was 3.6 percent whereas 5 years ago in 2016-17 the number was 27 lakh. In the growing economic crisis, where unemployment rates have risen, especially in the wake of Covid-19, many have been laid off, employment has stagnated in the wake of the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, the devaluation of the rupee against the dollar, and the extent to which the BBS survey matches reality is in question. .
In the fiscal year 2016-17, the number of people employed in Bangladesh was 68 million. In a span of 5 years, at the end of 2022, this number is 7 crore 7 lakh 80 thousand in the country. In these 5 years, 99 lakh 80 thousand new jobs have been created in the country, where this number of people have been involved in these jobs. Analyzing this data, it can be seen that two million new jobs have been created in the country every year, while the unemployment rate has decreased from 4.2 percent to 3.6 percent. Those who worked one hour a week were considered employed. Those who keep 2 chickens at home are also caught working. However, in this case, the International Labor Organization (ILO) definition of unemployment is being discussed. All 187 member states of the ILO that conduct labor surveys follow these definitions. Apart from this, the ILO claims that a uniform standard definition for different countries has not yet been determined. In fact, in the ILO survey, the opportunity to work for wages for at least 1 hour per week is considered to be engaged in employment. Even raising poultry for the family does not qualify as unemployed. Again, it has been said not to say unemployed even if you do not get wages for productive work. Whether such a definition is applicable to a developing country like Bangladesh can be identified in bold.
Again, although the BBS survey uses the ILO definition as the medium, the ILO publishes different unemployment figures. Another report of the ILO mentioned that the number of unemployed in Bangladesh is 3 crore. Which will double in a few years to 6 crores, which will be 39.40 percent of the total population. The ILO estimate is considered by observers to be the true number of unemployed in Bangladesh. If so, why did the BBS survey choose the definition that understates unemployment over other ILO definitions? One thing is easy to understand, development plans are arranged in the light of various surveys. In this case, if the unemployment survey shows low number of unemployed, it will affect the next steps. Because an overall action plan cannot be formulated in the light of correct information. For example, in terms of employment, it will become difficult to fill up the vacant posts in government departments at the expected pace. Apart from this, it will not be possible to make necessary decisions to protect the law and order of the country along with the overall development. Because crime rates increase when unemployment increases, so does the need for law enforcement. According to the calculations of ILO, World Bank, Commonwealth, the unemployment rate has increased by 1.6 percent in a decade, a study by the Bangladesh Economic Association has said that 2.2 million people enter the labor market in Bangladesh annually, only 7 million of them are employed. It includes educated and uneducated unemployed. According to a report published in an English daily of the country, there are about a quarter of a million highly educated unemployed in the country. New list of unemployed is added every year. According to statistical data, the largest source of employment in Bangladesh is private sector. These institutions provide 95% employment. Of these, the garment industry is the single largest employer, employing about 4 million people. The BBS survey on unemployment showed no link to poverty. According to the Bureau of Statistics, more than 4 crore people are still under the poverty line in the country, which is 24.47 percent of the total population. According to the calculations of the World Bank, a person whose daily income is 1.25 dollars or about 97 taka is poor. As such, more than 4 crore people of the country are not able to earn this daily, they remain poor. Coupled with the unemployed or those who have no income, almost half of the country’s population has not crossed the poverty line.
According to the 2022 Labor Force Survey, 3 crore 2.2 lakh workers work in the agricultural sector, 1 crore 2.5 lakh in the industrial sector and 2 crore 66 lakh 50 thousand in the service sector. 5 years ago, in the financial year 2016-17, 2 crore 47 lakh workers were working in the agricultural sector in Bangladesh. Now there are questions about reducing the unemployment rate and increasing the number of workers in the agricultural sector. In developed economies, workers from the agricultural sector go to the service sector or the industrial sector, the opposite picture is seen in Bangladesh – the question has also been raised. In response to this, the Minister of State for Planning said, ‘I think the additional labor in this agriculture is temporary, it will be fixed again, I said to publish the preliminary data, the data may come out differently in the original research.’ In such a situation, the Bureau of Statistics survey should have been more verified. Because the survey in the light of the definition of the ILO, it deserves to be reconsidered. Although the BBS covers 1 hour of work per week as employment, this is essentially pseudo-unemployment, which is more pronounced in agriculture. There is a lot of fake unemployment in our country. For example, few hours/days in a week are available for work and other hours are not available. But it needs to be considered whether this hourly income can bring the individual over the poverty line. And engaging in productive work without remuneration is considered employment under the ILO definition. It is also linked to poverty alleviation.
Regarding the controversy arising in the definition of ILO, it can be said that since 1972, Bangladesh as a member of the ILO has agreed to this definition and this definition is globally acceptable, which is why Bangladesh and other developing countries follow it. The reason for this is to maintain international standards, so that the definition of employment in our country does not differ with the definition of other countries. Now when it comes to income, it actually means poverty, affordability and inequality. A worker may work 1/2/3 hours a week during field data collection in a labor market survey, but may find that he is working 10 hours in the next three weeks after the survey is completed. There is also the timing issue, for example in rural areas if the survey is conducted during harvesting and harvesting time, then everyone will say they have done more work, if asked in other seasons they will not say they have done more work. There are many issues in this. For which reason it can be said, in fact, to be based on partial divine selection. So in some cases it gives complete information, and in some cases it does not give actual information. Is unemployment really reduced now? This is a different context than the ILO definition of unemployment. In this case, how the BBS data was collected, there is no role of the ILO and the accuracy of this data can also be questioned. Again BBS can reveal the real information if it wants. In this case, the political issue is not involved? The organization claims that the ILO is not sure of this and that it is not the responsibility of the ILO to say so. But the question of inconsistency with the reality, in the light of the ILO definition, the BBS survey and unemployment data has given birth to a new debate.
The emphasis on reducing the unemployment rate through increasing employment is questionable. In 2016-17, the youth unemployment rate of the labor force in the country was 10.6 percent of the total labor force, it is known from various sources that this rate has increased. Citing ILO data, a daily report on January 6 said that the number of unemployed youth in the country is 73.5 million. By economic definition, unemployment and poverty are flip sides of the same coin. Although the social security program has been recognized internationally as a way to reduce poverty, this program is not able to bring the desired success in reducing poverty in the country. The reasons include lack of allocation of funds, irregularities in selection of beneficiaries, corruption and lack of coordination between various ministries and agencies. In such a situation, it remains to be seen how much relief the Bureau of Statistics survey will provide to researchers. However, the variation of information on the same subject from different sources is not new and researchers have to use their own intelligence in this regard. However, the government’s program to reduce unemployment, which is currently ongoing, must be implemented 100% and the last year of the government’s budget coming next June, unemployment reduction should be given more importance.
Dr. Mihir Kumar Roy: Agricultural Economist and Researcher; Dean, City University.
Source: Bhorer Kagoj by www.bhorerkagoj.com.
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