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Bangladesh

Skilling up Bangladeshi women

Tashmina Rahman's picture
Learning new skills for better jobs in Bangladesh: Meet Kamrul Nahar Omi


The Bangladesh garments industry is poised to grow into a $50 billion industry by 2021 and for this, two million semi-skilled workers are needed.

Non-garment industries such as leather, furniture, hospitality and Information & Technology (IT) are also poised to grow.

But how can we think equal, build smart, innovate for change, the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day? 

Female participation in the workforce has been increasing but remains less than half of male participation rates across primary working ages.

Of those females joining work, over 80 percent are engaged in low-skilled, low-productivity jobs in the informal sector with little opportunity for career progression.

Technical and vocational education and training (TVET) is one important medium to equip women with employable skills and improve their job market participation.  

Overcoming the perception of TVET as ‘male-dominated’ training, women’s participation in technical programs has been steadily rising over the past decade.

Yet, Bangladesh still has a long way to go with female share in enrollments around 25 percent in TVET programs.

In fact, a World Bank study identifies some keys areas of intervention for improving female participation in technical diploma programs:

  1. creating a gender-friendly environment in polytechnics and workplaces;
  2. developing more service-orientated diploma programs;
  3. developing a TVET awareness campaign for females;
  4. (supporting a career counseling and guidance system for females;
  5. improving access to higher education;
  6. providing demand-stimulating incentives; (vii) generating research and knowledge;
  7. leveraging partnerships to promote opportunities for females and
  8. generating more and better data to track progress and inform policy and operations for female-friendly TVET. 

Is education delivering on its promise for Bangladesh?

TM Asaduzzaman's picture
 

Are students really learning? This is the primary question In Bangladesh, where more than one third of grade 3 students could not be classified as “readers” because they did not score high enough to be tested. In case of mathematics, the share of students who do not meet minimum proficiency is at 60 percent. These assessments confirm the key message of World Development Report 2018 .

Why are learning levels low? WDR 2018 identifies that the global learning crisis is a result of gaps in one or more of four key school level ingredients for learning - prepared learners, effective teaching, learning focused inputs, and the skilled management and governance that pulls them all together. The report notes that when countries and their leaders make learning for all a national priority, education standards can improve significantly. Relying on evidence gathered around the world, the report offers three policy recommendations: First, Assess learning - so it can become a measurable goal. Second, Act on evidence - to make schools work for all children. Finally, Align actors - to mobilize everyone who has a stake in learning.

Schooling is not the same as learning. Bangladesh has already made a tremendous start by getting most of the children and youth into school. Unfortunately, schooling is not same as learning. Thousands of children attend school but gain very little in terms of actual skills. Moreover, learning outcomes are almost always significantly worse for the disadvantaged. As a result, millions of youths are facing the prospect of lost opportunity and lower wages in later life because schools are failing to ensure learning outcomes.

Skills competition inspires youth in Bangladesh

Mustahsin-ul-Aziz's picture
A team of young female innovators receiving a prize from the Ministry of Education at the national skills competition. 

Skills education in Bangladesh has suffered from a social stigma, which is gradually changing. Parents were unwilling to send their children to pursue technical education because they didn’t realize its value. Students themselves rarely aspired to be educated in the technical stream because they wrongly perceived it as a place for low-achievers. This presented a major problem for the government of Bangladesh in achieving the target of a skilled workforce. To face the challenges of the next generation job market and benefit from the demographic dividend, this mindset needed to change.

To address the situation, the Skills and Training Enhancement Project (STEP) of the government of Bangladesh supported by the Government of Canada and the World Bank took an innovative measure. The project initiated a Skills Competition in 2014. The competition planned to hold three levels of competition to encourage all students and ensure maximum participation. The first stage of the competition was held at the institutional level, and the winners went on to compete at the regional level. The winners of the regional level then competed in the national level competition to take home the prize of the Best Skilled.

New year with a fresh start: Addressing urban poverty in Bangladesh

Wameq Azfar Raza's picture


Although Bangladesh has achieved much in the way of poverty reduction and human development, progress has been slower in some urban areas.

Issues such as slow-down of quality job growth, low levels of educational attainment (notably among the youth), and lack of social protection measures have taken the wind out of the proverbial urban reduction “sail.” As the country starts fresh in the new year, it is an opportune time to reflect on some of the key issues affecting urban poverty.

Despite the steady growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP), successive Household Income and Expenditure Surveys (2005 to 2010 and 2010 to 2016) suggest that the rate of poverty reduction has been slowing down while the absolute number of extreme poor have been increasing in urban Bangladesh. Given the accelerating rate of urbanization, it suggests that more people live in extreme poverty in 2016 than they did in 2010. With nearly 44% of the country’s population projected to be living in an urban setting by 2050, this issue is only likely to intensify.  

Several factors may be driving this trend. Absence of education and skills dampen labor market participation and productivity. Among those who participate in the labor-force in urban areas, 19% of men and 28% of women are illiterate. For those who received at least some training, a recent study shows that only 51% of eighth-grade students met equivalent competency in the native language subject (Bangla). The figures were markedly lower for other subjects. Similar trends carry through to technical diploma and tertiary level institutes. As a result, many prospective employers report reluctance to hiring fresh graduates.

Toward a livable Dhaka

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
Toward a Liveable Dhaka


The Dhaka Metropolitan Area is the economic and political center of Bangladesh and has been the country’s engine of economic growth and job creation. Dhaka’s role as a commercial hub has led to rapid population growth, with the population increasing 10 times in 40 years to about 18 million in 2015. This has contributed to Bangladesh having one of the fastest rates of urbanization in South Asia.

Today, more than one-third of Bangladesh’s urban population lives in Dhaka, one of the world’s most densely populated cities with 440 persons per hectare – denser than Mumbai (310), Hong Kong, and Karachi (both 270).

Dhaka is also one of the least livable cities in the world. It is ranked 137 on livability out of 140 cities, the lowest for any South Asian city surveyed. The low livability in Dhaka disproportionately affects vulnerable populations, such as the poor, women, and the elderly.

How digital public procurement has transformed Bangladesh

Zafrul Islam's picture
Digital Public Procurement Transforms Bangladesh


Each year, Bangladesh spends around $10 billion of its national budget on public procurement to build and maintain schools, roads, power plants and others. Public funds can be used effectively for the people only when the procurement system is transparent and efficient.  In the last few years, the country has shifted away from traditional procurement standards – paperwork and long processing time – and rolled e-GP, a new electronic government procurement system.

Skilled Women Are Breaking Labor Force Barriers in Bangladesh

Ahamad Tanvirul Alam Chowdhury's picture

Dolly owns and runs “Lovely Fashion,” a tailoring shop in Tongi near Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. She is in her mid-twenties and earns around BDT 12,000 (USD 150) a month.  “I work hard. I can support my family to live with dignity in the society,” says Dolly. “Finally I have peace of mind and financial independence.”

Dolly working in her tailoring shop
Dolly working in her tailoring shop