The Financial Express

Addressing unemployment

| Updated: January 20, 2023 22:01:16

Addressing unemployment

The International Labour Organisation's (ILO's) projection on the global employment situation for the 2023 is hardly encouraging. Titled, 'World Employment and Social Outlook:Trends 2023 (WESCO trends)', the report was released on Monday focusing on job creation or the lack of it along with inflation, productivity and broad economic recovery or not in each country, region and continent separately and collectively. Against the projected global employment growth of a paltry 1.0 per cent which is half that of the previous year, unemployment will be slightly higher by just 3.0 million to 208 million to stay at a rate of 5.8 per cent. South Asian region's employment growth will also be almost half at 1.6 per cent from 3.0 per cent a year ago. So far as employment generation is concerned, Bangladesh's performance will be at the centre of attention for its people.

According to the ILO report, there will be a slight drop in the country's unemployment from 5.0 per cent in 2022 to 4.8 per cent in the current year. It can be seen either way---positively or negatively. Positively because, although it is a negligible recovery of just 0.2 per cent, it is after all a decline in unemployment at the same annual rate since 2020. If the higher number of working-age population who join the workforce here is taken into consideration, even the 0.2 per cent drop in annual unemployment at this crunch time cannot be considered a dismal development on the labour front. The negative perspective is that this is much too inadequate for a country's healthy and equalitarian socio-economic order---particularly when it is poised to attain the low-income developing status by 2026. Significantly, despite the drop in unemployment, the rate of unemployment will still remain higher by 0.4 per cent over the pre-pandemic level of 4.4 per cent in 2019.

As the free-market economy is increasingly exposing its ills in terms of uneven growth and atrociously unequal distribution of wealth, Bangladesh has also followed suit in that respect. The fact that even in the pandemic and post-pandemic periods, two-thirds of the world's wealth were accumulated into the hands of just one per cent of the global population is likely to be true for Bangladesh as well. When inflation bites and not all retrenched people succeed in getting employment or are forced to accept lower-paid jobs on adverse terms and conditions, the ILO report's underlying message becomes even more troubling.

The ILO has suggested prudent government policy intervention. Well, in order to make the macroeconomic health as much stable as possible, governments almost everywhere have generously allocated stimulus packages for big businesses with hardly any corresponding return or facilities for workers, avenues of fresh employment or any condition for limited profits. Had there been such strings attached to the generous allocations, inflation would not flare like forest fire crippling the economy at the micro level. Big businesses were reluctant to downsize their operative capital and profits and governments preserved their interests instead of the small units and workforces. What if the small and medium enterprises could maintain their optimum operation and workers were provided with higher wages, and fresh hands recruited particularly in post-pandemic recovery time? People's purchasing capacity would perhaps propel large industries and big businesses also to run full capacity. At least it was possible before the escalation of fuel price and Ukraine war. Now the only option is to realise wealth tax more than proportionate to the undue possessions by the rich and the superrich in the meantime.

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