Vocational training

Comprehensive policy measure to reduce youth unemployment

| Update:
06 January 2022 21:15:01

Youth unemployment is a burning issue for Bangladesh’s economy. According to the quarterly labor force survey 2015/16, the youth unemployment rate stands at 8.7% while the national unemployment rate is 4.2%. Therefore, the severity of the problem is pronounced for the youth population. In Bangladesh, the majority of young school dropouts end up unemployed or in poor quality jobs that offer limited socio-economic opportunities. In 2015, the dropout rate at the secondary level was very high at 40.29% according to BANBEIS 2016. This high dropout rate ultimately leads to a lack of skills among young people. Thus, the lack of skills can be considered as one of the main determinants of youth unemployment. Youth unemployment has multidimensional negative effects. It perpetuates poverty in the economy due to loss of income. Many young people withdraw completely from the labor market because they have not found a job for a long time. It also causes mental health problems such as depression due to long periods of unemployment. Lack of social mobility due to unemployment is also a central reason for the prevalence of child marriage in Bangladesh. How can this serious problem of youth unemployment be alleviated? In this regard, vocational training programs have been successful in raising the skill level of young people. In turn, skilled youth have found better jobs.

One such success story in skills training programs is BRAC’s skills training program, known as Skills Training for Advancing Resources (STAR). Recently, a study conducted by a researcher from the BRAC Institute on Governance and Development (BIGD) at BRAC University revealed that the training program was successful in providing employment opportunities and increasing incomes for young people. . The program targets the poor and disadvantaged out-of-school in rural and urban areas. Selected youth receive both classroom training and apprenticeship training. The classroom training program includes theoretical training on specific trades and training in soft skills (financial literacy, market assessment and basic communicative English). This training is given once a week for 20 weeks. Apprenticeship training takes place in local micro-enterprises where business owners are trained as master craftspersons (MCPs) to provide training to young people/apprentices. Apprenticeship training is provided five days a week for six months. The program cycle is completed in six months. The training program is fully subsidized. BRAC uses a rigorous screening process to identify eligible youth based on their income, education, marital status, and willingness to pursue vocational training and employment after graduation. Likewise, a thorough selection process is followed as part of the MCP selection. Sixty and seven percent of program participants are women and people with disabilities, respectively.

Study participants received training in cell phone maintenance, air conditioner/refrigerator repair, graphic design, tailoring, etc., based on local market demand. The study concludes that apprenticeship training increases young people’s participation in the labor market by 31 percentage points (66%) and earnings by 46% in the short term. The increase in earnings also persisted over the long term because the program resulted in a shift from low-wage casual work to higher-paying wage employment. There is also evidence that apprenticeship training is likely to increase long-term labor productivity. In addition, employment increases both in companies where apprenticeship training took place and in other companies. Men and women benefited almost equally from the program. The results of the study also show that the intervention significantly increases well-being. Recipients are more likely to have more long-term shirts and shoes, which is used as a measure of well-being. Additionally, study participants reported a higher level of self-confidence. It thus appears that one of the reasons for the success of the BRAC program is due to the choice of companies with trainers and their interest in using apprentices as a recruitment channel. This has important policy implications for the design of successful apprenticeship training programs.

The findings of this study have several policy implications, particularly in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. There has been a sharp increase in unemployment in the formal and informal sectors. According to the ILO, Bangladesh’s unemployment rate rose by 1.11% to 5.5% in 2020. This erased much of the gains in poverty reduction. Phase IV of the PPRC-BIGD Covid-19 Livelihoods and Recovery Panel Survey found that the urban slum unemployment rate doubled in August 2021 from the pre-COVID level. Additionally, another BIGD study titled “Challenges and Prospects of Youth Employment in the Post-COVID Scenario” found that among youth who were engaged in income-generating activities before the pandemic, nearly 15% were out of the job market. labor market in January 2021. In this scenario, vocational training can be a solution to solve the problem of high youth unemployment by providing both salaried and self-employment jobs and inducing higher incomes. Thus, the implementation and expansion of vocational training programs can contribute to poverty reduction.

Joydeep Sinha Roy, Operations Manager, BRAC Skills Development Programme, BRAC. [email protected] Dr. Narayan Das, Associate Professor, BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD), BRAC University. [email protected] Tanjim-Ul-Islam, Intern, BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD), BRAC University. [email protected]