Make better use of ‘demographic dividend’

21 November 2014


SOME 47.6 million or 30 percent of the total 158.5 million people in Bangladesh are young (10-24 years), and it will be between 10 and 19 percent by 2050, according to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) which launched the State of World Population Report 2014 on Wednesday globally.
 "This means that Bangladesh needs to invest right now in the human capital of its young people if it wants to reap the benefits of a large demographic dividend," said the report presented at the Jatiya Press Club, as per a report of a local daily. Bangladesh has done well in terms of primary school enrolment, reducing birth rate and maternal and child mortality rates, but child marriage is still a threat to human health.
Average marriage age of women in Bangladesh is 15.8, and 65 percent of girls are married off before the age of 18 while 69 percent of deliveries take place at homes. According to the UNFPA report, despite the government's greater attention to them, the youths still confront many obstacles that keep them from safely transitioning into adulthood and the workforce.
In Bangladesh, two million young people enter the labour market every year, but a large number of them are either jobless or have irregular jobs, said Population Council Country Director Ubaidur Rob.
It is obvious to everyone that our youth has the ability to reach their potential - if only guided correctly. Unfortunately this is not often the case. Poverty and the concomitant parental neglect mean that less than half of children finish high school - if they are girls they are married off and if boys they are sent to work. It is completely upto the government to ensure that these kids at least finish high school and enter a college or receive technical education at vocational schools by giving appropriate subsidies - e.g. a food subsidy for adolescents who are in high school, or money for better teachers. If we spend money on tanks and guns but don't have a skilled or educated workforce our future will be dark as we would not be able to use the same tanks and guns to defend ourselves - because we didn't have access to proper quality education.
Everything ultimately boils down to politics - it is politics, which shapes the economics of a nation. Corruption and nepotism eat away at GDP growth, as studies have shown and commonsense suggests. It increases income imbalance greatly and helps the few at the expense of the many. If our system of governance is tilted in favour of the powerful few - then no matter how many youths we have we can never advance as a nation.


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