The Financial Express

Addressing unemployment in time of Covid

| Updated: January 21, 2022 22:05:34

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Of the 207 million people projected to remain out of work globally, Bangladesh's share, according to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), is likely to be 3.6 million. While the global unemployment rate is expected to drop to 5.9 per cent this year from the previous year's 6.2 per cent, for Bangladesh the rate of decline may be from 5.2 per cent to just 5.0 per cent. The country also witnessed a drop of 0.2 percentage point last year from 5.4 per cent in 2020 but all these rates are much higher than the pre-pandemic level of 4.4 per cent in 2019. On this score, the rate of global unemployment during 2021 dropped to 6.2 per cent from 6.6 per cent in 2020. Both the projected global rate for 2022 and the last year's rate are also higher than 5.4 per cent in 2019. One thing is clear that global unemployment fell comparatively faster than that of Bangladesh. But the country's initial advantage of lower unemployment still gives it an edge.

Now the question that is likely to trouble many a mind is, can the country enjoy the edge for long? In other words, how equipped it is to narrow the ratio of joblessness in the face of yet another wave of Covid-19 infections ---both worldwide and on the home soil. Clearly, Europe and America were on course of bringing down the rate of unemployment faster than any other part of the planet. The United States of America in particular was successful to bring its unemployment rate to 3.9 per cent, only slightly above the pre-pandemic level. Had the fresh wave of pandemic not struck, it would have brought down the rate to that level or even further below soon. This was no miracle, for Joe Biden's generous injection of state fund and fiscal policies were behind creating jobs. Those who received the stimulus package were made accountable for job creation.

Unfortunately, this did not happen in Bangladesh. The recipients of large stimulus packages, particularly in the RMG sector, found their business picking up at a significant pace but instead of creating opening for the retrenched workers, allegedly more of them were terminated or forced to receive reduced wages. If there were long-term economic policies to be complemented by emergency fiscal policies, the picture on the employment front could surely look up. Instead, it is the privileged who have made the most of the allocated funds without sharing the benefits with the workers.  

The projected joblessness of 3.6 million is likely to pose a daunting challenge before the government. It will be more so because of the atrocious market system that has helped not only the world's top 10 richest people to double their wealth but also added one billionaire each day during the lockdown. Bangladesh also has got the share of this atrocious disparity. While the poor died, Oxfam claims, the rich prospered. With its limitations, though, Bangladesh has done appreciably well to vaccinate its citizens. Since much of the economic operation and business depends on vaccination coverage, the country should have done better in terms of bringing the rate of unemployment. A review of sharing profit and benefit between employers and employees is warranted to eliminate the outlandish distribution of wealth and narrow disparities. 

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