BD job seekers worry about future as they age out

20 May 2021

Namrata Talukdar Orpa completed her postgraduate degree from Dhaka University in 2020, but it's a long road ahead for her to get the job she wants. She is frustrated by the suspension of the hiring process amid the coronavirus pandemic that upended lives and livelihoods across Bangladesh.
"I think we are the ones facing the worst situation. Our results are out already, but there are no employment opportunities," Namrata said.
She is one of the job seekers in Bangladesh, who worry about their future employment and their increasing age. To add to their woes, job openings seem to be shrinking.
Education institutions across the country have been shut since Mar 17, 2020, following the spread of the coronavirus infection, leaving undergraduate and postgraduate students stuck in academic limbo for over a year. Many of them stare into a bleak future.
Employment has dropped "significantly" both in the government and private sector, job seekers claim. As a result, postgraduates are not getting to see enough job offers, and undergraduates are unable to apply for jobs without completing their exams.
Despite the pandemic, Bangladesh held the preliminary tests for the 41st BCS and the 42nd BCS this year. The next BCS preliminary test is slated for August, but many will be left out of the final lap in the race.
Under the circumstances, the government should increase the age limit for job seekers, they say. Experts, however, spoke against a long-term extension of the age limit.
In Bangladesh, the cut-off age to apply for government jobs is 30 years. In September, the government extended the age limit for job seekers as their education was affected by the pandemic. This enabled those crossing the age of 30 on Mar 25, 2020 to apply for jobs. This year the government is yet to make a decision on the issue.
"Considering the overall situation, I don't think there's a necessity to extend the age limit for job seekers, 30 years of age is good enough to apply for jobs;
it shouldn't be pushed up to 32 years. Rather, those who are affected now, should get an extended deadline to apply for jobs," said Faisal Bari, a postgraduate student of geology at Dhaka University.
Bari could only take a final exam for one subject on Mar 15. After that, the university was shut. "I don't feel any urge to study as no exam is being held now. I lost my interest in studying due to this uncertainty."
In contrast, many job seekers prefer a long-term extension of the age limit for those applying for jobs.  
Almost all of the undergraduate and postgraduate students are falling behind in their studies. An extension of the age limit for a shorter period will benefit only a few of them.
To assist students to recover the loss, the age limit to apply for jobs in the government sector should be 32 years, said Babul Afrad who completed his master's from Jagannath University in 2018.
"They can reverse it later on, but now the government should extend the age limit for the job seekers affected by the pandemic."
"As of now, the government has no plans for those of us who are aged between 27 to 29 years. It only extended the age limit for 5 months for the 30-year-olds. They have got that advantage, while we had none," Babul said, expressing frustration over 'getting old while the pandemic prevents them from building a career.'
"I feel like I'm drowning in despair. There's no job circular for the past months. I had three years to apply for jobs before I reach the cut-off age. I could have been into the first year if I was able to sit for the exams. Now I have only one and a half years left to reach that age. I'm really worried."
To make things worse, he has to confront the economic crisis as well. Previously, he used to cover his expenses by providing tuition to others, but this stopped due to the pandemic. "At this age, we're supposed to work and provide financial support to our parents, but now our families are burdened with us."
Another job seeker, Arafat Hossain, lost his interest in government jobs and started looking for jobs with lower salaries in the private sector instead. Arafat took the decision because of the uncertainty regarding the age limit to apply for those jobs, he said.
"We get older by the time we enter the market to bag a job, because of the academic session jam. On top of that, the coronavirus pandemic has wasted more time. Now I am applying for the jobs I have never thought to look for," he said.
Arafat could have opted for a government job had the government cleared the age limit issue, he said. "There wouldn't be any confusion and I could study in a relaxed mood," he said.
"In any case, seven colleges affiliated to Dhaka University are falling behind in academic sessions. And now we're suffering because of the coronavirus pandemic. We can't compete in the job market if the authorities don't extend the age limit," said Ikram Hossain, a third-year student at Dhaka College.  
Their seventh and eighth semester exams were scheduled for June and November, but never took place, said Nur Islam Tipu, a student of the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication in Jagannath University.
"I can't try to clear the BCS exam unless I graduate. Also, these days we don't study much as there's no exam. We're not prepared at all. It may seem just a year that we lost, but our mental loss is irrecoverable."
The authorities must increase the age limit for two years as all of the student batches are affected, said Nur Islam.

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