Bangladesh, in order to embark upon a higher growth path, needs to increase labour productivity. This depends on appropriate skill training. As the economy draws the lifeblood for the country's foreign exchange coffer from export earnings and workers' remittances, there is no other way for more remittances without making the country's vast manpower skilled. A skilled worker earns 50 per cent to 100 per cent higher wages in the Gulf countries than an unskilled one.
Providing skills training to workforce without getting a clear idea of what the labour-importing countries require is like putting the horse before the cart. The Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training (BMET) should immediately conduct such a survey with the help of the country's missions abroad and send it to all technical institutes for following it. It is time for accelerating vocational education at the SSC and the HSC levels and collaborating with manpower importing countries so they can be trained according to their specifications.
Bangladesh's prospects of exporting more manpower exports to traditional countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) are poised to suffer a jolt in view of drastic fall in oil prices. More Gulf countries including Saudi Arabia are shelving off infrastructural projects. These countries are even thinking of reducing manpower imports by encouraging their own nationals to take up those jobs. About 46.2 per cent of the workforce is mostly concentrated in the Gulf countries. But the fact remains that 87 per cent of the Bangladeshi migrants did not receive any training prior to their departure.
Experts have time and again urged the government to equip aspirant migrant workers with the right set of skills and languages before they depart for jobs so that they can earn more and avoid exploitation. As many of the Western countries start to experience demographic shifts, the structure of their labour demand is expected to undergo important changes, as Prof Mustafizur Rahman, executive director of the CPD said in a recent presentation. "This has important implications for the development of needed skills and catering to the emerging demand for financial inclusion."
It is to be noted here that Filipino migrant workers send home four times more in remittance compared to Bangladeshi workers. Sri Lankan workers earn up to 70 per cent more than their Bangladeshi counterparts because of their skills and fluency in English. Happily, realising such a need, the government has set up technical institutes in almost all upazilas and districts but then it appears that there is still no survey of what skills labour-importing countries really need?
The government, however, is aware of the pressing need to provide skills to the country's workers. As per an agreement, China has agreed to provide training to 581 teachers and officials of Bangladesh's technical education sector in phases under a partnership agreement signed last November. As part of the agreement, a 10-day training of the first batch of teachers and officials began at Guangzhou in China last week. The main objective of the agreement is to improve quality and relevance of technical education through encouraging innovation within institutes, and to enhance technical and institutional capacity of the technical-vocational education and training (TVET) in Bangladesh.
Officials said, under the agreement signed between Bangladesh's Skills and Training Enhancement Project (STEP) and China's Guangzhou Industry and Trade Technician College, 20 teachers and officials of different batches will be given either 10-day or 21-day training in phases. It may be mentioned here that enrolment rate of students in technical education has been increasing rapidly for the last few years, which now stands at around 14 per cent. The government's target is to take the enrolment rate to 20 per cent by 2020 and 30 per cent by 2030.
Providing skills to Bangladeshi youths will deliver rich dividends in the days ahead in view of ever-shrinking young and productive workforce in Europe, Japan and South Korea
The working-age population of Germany - Europe's biggest economy - is expected to shrink by 6.3 million by 2030 as the country's overall population dwindles from 82 million to 65-70 million by 2060. Policymakers are warning of a looming shortage of skills that the Cologne-based IW institute has estimated is already costing 22 billion euros ($27 billion) a year.
In South Korea, growth has slowed along with the formerly explosive development of the dominant manufacturing sector, and the government will need to consider ways to attract skilled foreigners as it seeks to boost the competitiveness of the service sector, says Kwon Young-sun, an economist. "If Korea wants to upgrade its service sector like Singapore did, we may need highly educated, highly skilled foreign workers," he says. Shrinking opportunities elsewhere and South Korea's low tax rate for foreigners are making South Korea look increasingly attractive to skilled workers abroad, says Kim In-hye, country head for the executive recruitment firm Russell Reynolds.
Finance Minister AMA Muhith in his 2016-17 budget speech made it clear that the government's initiatives are not confined to the country only. Bangladesh will implement skill development programmes for unskilled and semi-skilled workers employed abroad. Particularly, initiatives will be taken to provide training in countries having the most overseas employments with the help of Bangladesh high commissions/ embassies, Ministry of Expatriate Welfare, and International Migration Organisation, he said. There is still no move to redeem his pledge.