Bangladesh and U.P. are both one of the most populated regions globally. Other than population, there are other various parameters where they can be compared. In the given write-up, we have compared the unemployment and incidence of poverty between these two regions. Further, we have also tried to understand its implications.
Bangladesh: From the Bottomless Basket to a Developing Country
Since Independence, Bangladesh has traversed a long way from being the “Bottomless basket” to becoming one of the emerging economies in South Asia. Reduction of poverty seconded by economic growth was accorded centrality in successive development plans (Hossain & Sen, 1992). During the sixth plan period of 2011-2015, Bangladesh’s GDP growth was 6.3 % (Goswami & Alamgir, 2018). This led to the decline of the population living under the national poverty line from 48.9% in 2000 to 31.5% in 2010 (ILO, 2013). Even then, in 2019, 41.7 % of Bangladesh’s population could be identified as multidimensionally poor, with a rural and urban differential of 48.6 % and 23 %, respectively (OPHI, 2010). There were even stark regional variations, with the Khulna region reporting 15.92 % of the population as multidimensionally poor while Sylhet reported 35.73 % (Alkire et al., 2021).
The major initiative taken by the Bangladesh government to reduce poverty is increased spending on various social programs, which collectively made up the Social Safety Net Programme (SSNP). In 2012-13, 94 such programs were listed under SSNP and the seven top-most programs constituted 51.7 % of the 2012-13 budget (ILO, 2013). A closer look at the available literature suggests that to reduce poverty in Bangladesh effectively, there needs to be an analytical distinction between vulnerability and poverty. Research findings indicate that a considerable proportion of the population situated above the poverty line is vulnerable to poverty in the near future (Azam & Imai, 2009). Therefore, along with poverty alleviation programs, it is necessary to implement social protection programs for vulnerable groups concerning geographical and temporal considerations.
Being one of the fastest-growing economies, Bangladesh has a continuous upswing in its GDP. The majority of the workforce is employed in the tertiary sector. In manufacturing, there is nearly a double expansion of employment in the garment industry from 12% in 1985-86 to 24% in 2010. Over the same period, the employment rate in agriculture has declined significantly- from approximately 75% in 1989 to 47% in 2010. A major reason for this can be the consequences of climate change on food production and non-farm employment in Bangladesh (Rezvi, 2018; Sen et al, 2021).
Over the last decade, the percentage of the unemployed population in the labor force has remained between 4 to 5 % (2002 to 2010 respectively). There is no change in the percentage of rural unemployed (4% from 2002 to 2010) though there has been an increase in the percentage of unemployed in the urban areas, 5% in 2002-03 to 7% in 2010. In both cases, women percentage of unemployed has increased over time- 4% to 5% in Rural and 7% to 10 % in urban areas, 2002-03 and 2010 respectively.
The unemployment rate in Bangladesh for women has risen more rapidly than for men. The data indicates that it has doubled in the past decade, rising from 3.3.% in 1999-2000 to 7.4 % in 2009-10 (ILO, 2013). However, there is only a 1% increase in the unemployment rate for men in the same period. Research indicates that the lack of access to resources is one of the primary reason for the increase in the female unemployment rate. If we see the division of employment, most women work in the agriculture sector (65%) compared to men (40%). Though women generally don’t hold ownership of the land, their labor is still a crucial part of agricultural productivity in Bangladesh. Another sector where women are in the majority is the Ready-Made Garment industry, where 80-85% of employees are women(ILO, 2016).
Youth in Bangladesh have been affected by the insufficient advancement in the labor market and have not been able to take full advantage of the economic gains of recent years. Despite having 13 million youths (47.6%) participating in the labor market, it is lower than the corresponding rate for adults(25-64 age, 64%). Even highly educated youths in Bangladesh find it more difficult to get employment opportunities than those with little to no education (ILO, 2013). For instance, the unemployment rate for youths is at 21% with a postgraduate degree compared with 7% for adults.
Uttar Pradesh: The State of Taj
Uttar Pradesh has historically been an agrarian state. As per census 2011, the share of the population living in rural areas was 77.72 % (Roy & Ahmad, 2013). Moreover, 37.79 % of the population in this state is multi-dimensionally poor. There further exists region-wide variations in the incidence of multidimensional poverty. For example, on the one hand, Shrawasti district has 74.38% of the population who are multi-dimensionally poor and on the other, Lucknow has 12.16 % of the population who are multi-dimensionally poor (NITI Aayog, 2021).
The stronghold of the feudal class waned off after the introduction of the Zamindari Abolition, but the Green Revolution of the 1960s consolidated power within the hands of smaller landowning farmers (Drèze & Gazdar, 1997). The latter group of farmers mostly comprised of higher castes made up of Kshatriya, Thakur, or Rajput (Drèze & Gazdar, 1997). Thus, the agrarian structure described above not only disenfranchised the vast majority of the population in terms of literacy, health, and standards of living but was also skewed against women. In addition, persistent structural inequalities don’t allow any effective public action to flourish with an aim to re-distribute economic and social power (Drèze & Gazdar, 1997). This explains the prevalence of high levels of poverty in the state of Uttar Pradesh.
In Uttar Pradesh, the unemployment rates have increased between 1993-94 to 2011-12. There is also a disparity between the men’s and women’s unemployment rates. The male unemployment rate is more than female over this period. One reason for this could be the migration of a large percentage of the male population to other states to search for jobs. However, it is essential to notice that less unemployment rate does not indicate that there are many employment opportunities. People are overwhelmingly involved in agriculture due to a lack of employment opportunities in the region (ILO, 2017).
The story from Uttar Pradesh is not very different from Bangladesh when we see the youth unemployment rate. The trend of the unemployment rate increases with the improvement in the educational levels of the population. For example, the highest level of unemployment incidence included the secondary and senior secondary graduates (2011-12, NSSO). Social structures also play a role in unemployment. The unemployment rate varies across the labor force belonging to different social groups in Uttar Pradesh. For instance, SC/STs are lower unemployment rates than other groups. In the case of lower education levels, SC/STs suffer a comparatively higher incidence of unemployment than other social groups (ILO,2017).
In conclusion, we can clearly see the strides made by Bangladesh and Uttar Pradesh in alleviating poverty and generating employment opportunities. But at the same time, it is essential to note how multi-dimensional poverty is still prevalent in the two regions informing both migration patterns and employment opportunities for both men and women. In both, regions there existed considerable regional variations in the incidence of multi-dimensional poverty due to geographical and economic factors. Although Bangladesh has given centrality to poverty reduction in its development paradigm, Uttar Pradesh being a largely agrarian state struggles to implement policy proposals due to the presence of a societal structure skewed against the oppressed castes. Moreover, an analytical differentiation between vulnerability and poverty will help policy formulations in both regions. At the same time, strengthening democratic structures via making space for public action will help bring to light varied issues related to the access of healthcare facilities, minimum standards of living, or primary education, necessary for a population to emerge out of poverty and its multi-faceted implications.
In the case of employment, Bangladesh has absorbed a significant proportion of surplus labor from the agricultural sector into the booming tertiary industry. Whereas in the case of Uttar Pradesh, the loss of employment in the agricultural sector was aided by out-migration to other Indian states in search of livelihood(non-farming activities). A similarity in both the regions is the dominance of women in the agricultural sector. In both cases, the percentage of women exceeds that of men in agriculture. Non-farm employment opportunities and employment opportunities in the urban centers are seldom in favor of women. Moreover, employment opportunities are gendered in nature as a significant proportion of women in Bangladesh is employed in the garment sector engaged in low-paying precarious jobs. Furthermore, youths’ unemployment rate and educational qualifications among the youth shared a positive relationship. In other words, in both Bangladesh and Uttar Pradesh, it was observed that highly educated youths found it difficult to get employment opportunities. As a result of this, both regions are seeing a migration of youth abroad in the case of Bangladesh and inter-state in the case of Uttar Pradesh (Ahmed and Khan; Mukherjee and Das, 2013). Thus, in both cases, effective policy formulations are required with an aim to generate employment opportunities, thereby enthusing a largely dispossessed mass of people within the necessary framework of robust democratic practices.
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The views expressed in this article are the author's own.