Though Bangladesh has made tremendous progress in several indicators of the Human Development Index, the country is lagging in some core indicators of that index
According to UNDP, Human development – or the human development approach - is about improving the quality of human life, rather than simply fattening the economy with impressive numbers. It is an approach that is focused on people and their opportunities and choices.
UNDP has been publishing the Human Development Report since 1990. The indicators that UNDP oversees to rank the countries are: a) health, b) education, c) income/composition of resources, d) inequality, e) gender, f) poverty, g) work, employment and vulnerability, h) human security, i) trade and financial flows, j) mobility and communications, k) environment sustainability, l) demography and m) social vulnerability.
The UNDP has recently published its Human Development Report 2020. According to the report, Bangladesh ranked 133rd out of 189 countries around the world in the Human Development Index. The current position of Bangladesh is commendable if we see the position of Bangladesh ten years back. The position of Bangladesh was 140th in the Human Development Index 2010. Bangladesh gradually advanced over the ten years by 7 tiers.
In the South Asian region, Bangladesh is in the fifth position in HDI. Among the South Asian countries, Sri Lanka ranked 72nd and held the first position, Maldives ranked 95th and held the second position. The third and fourth position is held by Bhutan (129th) and India (131st). Then Bangladesh comes in the fifth position with the rank of 133rd. Nepal, Pakistan and Afghanistan are lagging with the rank of 142nd, 154th and 169th.
The HDI value of Bangladesh improved over the past few years. In 2015, the HDI value of Bangladesh was 0.592 and, currently, in 2020, the value stands at 0.632. The gradual increment in the value indicates the gradual improvement of Bangladesh in several indicators of HDI.
According to the Bangladesh Economic Review, the estimated incidence of poverty rate was 20.5 percent in 2019, which was 40 percent in 2005. The infant mortality rate (per 1000 live births) reduced to 21 in 2019 from that of 31 in 2013. Maternal mortality ratio (per 1000 live births) is also lessened to 1.65 in 2019 from that of 1.97 in 2013. The literacy rate of population (+7yrs) increased to 74.4 percent from that of 57.2 percent in 2011. The per capita national income has also increased to $2,064 from that of $703 in 2009.
Though Bangladesh has made tremendous progress in several indicators of the Human Development Index, the country is lagging in some core indicators of that index. Some of the indicators in which Bangladesh is lagging behind the neighbouring countries include- government's expenditure on health and education, FDI inflows, the unemployment rate of youth and skilled labour force.
According to the HDR report 2020, government expenditure on health and education sectors are 2.3 percent and 2.0 percent of GDP, respectively, that is much lower than the expenditure on this sector done by neighbouring countries. For example, the Maldives, whose health and education expenditures are 9.0 percent and 4.0 percent of GDP, respectively. The report also revealed that the foreign direct investment in Bangladesh is only 0.5 percent of GDP; the unemployment rate is 11.9 percent of youth ages 15-24; internet users are only 15.5 percent of the total population, and the skilled labour force is only 25.8 percent of the total labour force.
Therefore, more emphasis should be given on those indicators in which Bangladesh is lagging. Expenditure on the health and education system needs to be increased. Quality health services and quality education should be ensured. Massive technological expansion is needed to transform Bangladesh into a digital one.
To strengthen our economy, more foreign direct investment needs to be attracted. Therefore, to do that, a conducive business environment needs to be ensured at first. Unemployment problems need to be resolved. At present, there are about 26 lakh educated unemployed youth in the country. The Bangladesh government should ensure employment facilities for such a large number of able-bodied and vibrant youth who have the potential to do a lot for the country. There is no alternative to the skilled labour force to sustain the economic growth of Bangladesh and to transform the country to a developed one by 2041 as envisioned by the current government. Hence, Bangladesh should focus on skill development of its total labour force through proper education and training.
The government of Bangladesh is very interested in developing human resources along with the economic development of the country. The government has included HRD as one of the major goals of its development agenda. According to the Bangladesh Economic Review 2020, the government has allocated 23.67 percent of its total budget in FY 2019-2020 to the Human Resource Development sectors, such as- education and technology, health and family welfare, women and children, social welfare, youth and sports development, culture, labour and employment etc.
The Covid-19 pandemic has made all the sectors of human development vulnerable. The Human Development Report 2020 reveals information about human resource development obtained before the corona pandemic situation. Thus, we don't know actually how badly the pandemic affected the sectors related to human resource development. To combat the devastating effects of Covid-19 pandemic, the government of Bangladesh has undertaken several measures such as disbursement of stimulus packages to different sectors. To maintain Bangladesh's progressive position on the Human Development Index in following years and to enrich the country with human resources, the government should identify the post-pandemic challenges related to human resource development and take necessary steps to overcome them.
Md Mehefuzul Islam has completed post-graduation from Bangladesh Agricultural University, Mymensingh.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of The Business Standard.