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Half of employed people earn less than $1.25 a day

News Published: Thursday, Jun 18, 2015

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12:00 AM, June 18, 2015 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, June 18, 2015

Half of employed people earn less than $1.25 a day

Economist Rizwanul Islam's book launched


Third from right, Rizwanul Islam, former special adviser at International Labour Organisation, poses with other noted economists at the unveiling of his book -- Unnoyon Bhabnay Kormosongsthan O Shromobazar -- at the Policy Research Institute office yesterday. Photo: Star

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Half of Bangladesh's employed population earns less than $1.25 a day, a poverty-line income threshold used by the World Bank, according to a book launched yesterday.

The book written by Rizwanul Islam, a former special adviser on employment at the International Labour Organisation, also shows that Bangladesh and Nepal were among five South Asian countries that had 50 percent of its employed people earning less than $1.25 a day. The book used data from 2005.

Sri Lanka had the lowest percentage of employed people with that level of income, followed by Pakistan and India, according to the book “Unnoyon Bhabnay Kormosongsthan O Shromobazar” that was unveiled at the Policy Research Institute (PRI) office in Dhaka.

"They are employed but they are poor. This is our main problem," said Islam on the book on employment and labour market.

He said low wages, inadequate income from self employment and the prevalence of unpaid family workers are among the reasons that have created the situation.

Islam also used data from the years of 2000 and 2010 to show the percentage of self-employed or unpaid family workers that remained at 63 percent in Bangladesh, although the country achieved around 6 percent growth a year during the same period.

Written in Bangla, the University Press Ltd published the book, where the author also shed light on employment and economic growth.

"There is no guarantee that growth will create enough jobs. Growth is necessary but is not sufficient for job creation," he said.

Islam also shared his analysis on the importance of employment for inclusive and pro-poor growth by giving examples and experiences of developing countries, including Bangladesh.

The author explored the reasons behind the high level of youth unemployment, the link between unemployment and level of education, factors behind the high level of employment in informal sectors and the nature of jobs in informal sectors.

Islam pointed to the role of macroeconomic policies and direct schemes to generate jobs and dedicated a section to share his analysis on the types of challenges that Bangladesh faces in generating employment.

He suggested diversification of economic activities to ensure creation of more decent jobs. The economy is dependent on the apparel sector for employment at present.

Akbar Ali Khan, a former adviser to the caretaker government, said the major problem in Bangladesh is unemployment.

Bangladesh's unemployment rate is 4.5 percent as per Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, while the rate is 8.3 percent in the US. BBS should not give such misleading data, he added. "It is an excellent work," said Selim Raihan, a professor of economics at the University of Dhaka, while commenting on the book.

"Employment will not be diversified without diversification of the economy."

Raihan however said the increased participation of women in the labour market should have been included in the book.

Nazneen Ahmed, senior research fellow of Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS), said it would have been better if the book also dealt with the migration of workers.

"There are some serious problems in our labour market. We should pay attention to those issues," said Ahsan H Mansur, executive director of PRI. Rushidan Islam Rahman, research director of BIDS, said adequate jobs are not being created. 

“It would be nice if the number of jobs grew faster than the rate of economic growth. It is also important to find out why one in three youths in the labour force migrates abroad."

Zaidi Sattar, chairman of PRI, said the author repeatedly stressed the need for inclusive growth, poverty reduction and equity and suggested strategies in the book.

Shaheen Anam, executive director of Manusher Jonno Foundation, said a section of the youth is frustrated. “They don't see any future at home, so they go abroad by any means as they believe that their lives will change for the better once they get there.”

Kamran T Rahman, former president of Bangladesh Employers Federation, and Quazi Mesbahuddin Ahmed, former member of the Planning Commission, also spoke.