[Excerpt] Bangladesh has enjoyed robust growth since the early 2000s—consistently greater than 6%—exceeding trends in other similar developing countries. Yet, the impact on employment has been less positive. Instead, the economy is still beset by underemployment, widespread informal employment, low productivity and earnings, and poor working conditions. Taken together these factors, limit the impact that strong growth has had on poverty reduction. Indeed, the proportion of workers employed in the informal sector—where high underemployment, low earnings, and poor working conditions are common—actually rose to 87.1% in 2013, from 78.4% in 2005–2006, where they experience high underemployment, low earnings, and poor working conditions. Meanwhile, gender disparities persist and compound the situation.
While increasing employment opportunities alone benefits the poor, the nature and the challenges of the present employment situation need to be carefully examined. In addition, it is essential to shift workers to more highly productive sectors through structural economic transformation.
To address the challenges, this study argues for still stronger growth with more rapid industrialization. It stresses the need for substantial diversification of production and employment within the manufacturing and agriculture sectors. It examines the ongoing need for significant numbers of Bangladeshi workers to continue finding employment overseas. It also underscores the importance of upgrading education and skills so that people can be productively employed at home. Key challenges include raising the quality of all levels of education, increasing enrollment in technical and vocational education and training, and addressing the issue of skills mismatch.