Published in The Daily Star on Friday, 5 June 2015.
The budget sets out no specific target of employment generation, although it outlines strategies that may act as a catalyst to help create jobs, experts say.
The finance minister, however, claimed to have generated 1.3 million jobs every year since 2010.
His claim is in stark contrast to the fact that hundreds of Bangladeshis are being trafficked through seas for jobs abroad.
Even as Muhith was placing the budget, several thousand Bangladeshis were waiting for repatriation from temporary camps in Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia or were in jail for intruding into those countries illegally.
“If we look back, four years preceding 2010, the number of jobs created per year was 1.6 million,” said Rushidan Islam Rahman, research director of Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS).
More than half of the 1.3 million jobs that Muhith spoke of include self-employment and unpaid household labour, Rushidan added.
“So the real number of jobs, in terms of being employed for a monthly salary by an authority, would constitute around 35 percent of the total [labour force].”
According to a 2013 World Bank estimate, of the country’s 7.7 crore labour force, 4.3 percent are unemployed.
And according to the government’s Labor Force Survey-2010, the number of people aged 15 and above eligible for work is 5.67 crore, of which, 5.41 crore are employed. Unemployment rate in that year was 4.3 to 4.5 percent.
But in that survey, a person engaged in work for an hour in a week was considered employed, Zaid Bakht, another research director of BIDS, told this newspaper in March this year. “It shows Bangladesh’s unemployment rate is lower than that in the US.”
Reduction of corporate tax, withdrawal of supplement duty and reduction of price in raw material purchase as proposed in the budget are among the steps that can create jobs in private sector, said Khondaker Golam Moazzem, assistant research director at CPD.
“Employment opportunities will depend on whether or not businessmen invest their profits,” said Moazzem.
In his speech, Muhith did not mention a word about illegal workers and trafficking. Instead, he said: “Workers are now going to Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and South Korea at a reasonable cost on G2G [government to government] basis.”
Rushidan thinks the country is becoming over-dependent on overseas job.
“And yet, there is no plan about the future of these overseas workers. They become jobless once they return home.”