Job applicants said that after graduating they have to apply for at least three to four jobs per month, and have to pay at least Tk4,000 as application fee
Amir Hossain completed his master's degree in anthropology from Dhaka University with financial support from his father, and also by working part time as a private tutor.
After completing the degree, Amir left tutoring and started studying for a government job. But, now he is finding it difficult to support himself in the city.
Amir said the increasing application fees is also adding to the difficulties of many jobseekers, and that he could not apply for many jobs because he could afford the fees.
Amir told The Business Standard that he could not apply for a job at Eastern Refinery, which is under the Power, Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry, because they asked for Tk1,500 as an examination fee.
Every government institution requires applicants to deposit an examination fee with the application form. Not just Eastern Refinery, all other government institutions have increased the application fees in recent years.
The Bangladesh Civil Service Commission charged Tk700 during 40th and 41st BCS examination. Earlier, it used to charge Tk500.
There were 475,000 applicants for the 41st BCS, and 412,000 for the 40th BCS exam.
Amir Hossain is one of thousands of applicants facing problems in paying the fee because most of them come from low to middle class families.
"After graduating, we apply for at least three or four jobs per month, and we have to pay at least Tk4,000 as application fees," Amir said, adding that most applicants cannot afford the extra expenditure.
According to the Bangladesh Bureau of Educational Information and Statistics, 77 percent of applicants come from poor to lower middle class families.
Since January 29, government job applicants, including enrolled students of Dhaka University, have been demonstrating for a reduction in the job application fees.
The demonstration began under the banner of Bangladesh Sadharon Chhatra Odhikar Songrokkhon Parishad and has spread to different universities and colleges.
Jahangirnagar University students recently held a rally on campus demanding the same thing.
Rashed Khan, joint convener of Bangladesh Sadharon Chhatra Odhikar Songrokkhon Parishad, said "We do not know why government offices, including the Bangladesh Civil Service Commission, compel students to pay high application fees. This is a burden on fresh graduates."
"Most students cannot apply because they can't afford the fees, so the government should take that into consideration and reduce the fees," he added.
The students demand that the government set job application fees at Tk 200 for ninth grade jobs, Tk 150 for 10th grade jobs, Tk 100 for 11-14 grade jobs and Tk 50 for 15-20th grade jobs.
They also want the examinations to be held at each district and division to mitigate the hassle of traveling long distances to take the exams.
Md Akbar Hossain, a student of Dhaka College, said "Reducing the job application fees is a trivial issue for the government, but it will be of great benefit for jobseekers. I believe the government will definitely consider our demands."
Meanwhile, the Dhaka University Central Students' Union also expressed solidarity with the demonstrators.
In November 2010, the Bangladesh Bank (BB) issued a notice asking authorities not to charge application fees for bank job exams. However, the government and private banks defied the order and went on charging between Tk 300 and 500 as application fees.
Later, in December 2015, the central bank again issued a notice instructing all to follow the previous order, and to stop charging application fees from government job seekers.
In the notice the Bangladesh Bank said, "It is difficult for young job applicants to pay the application fees. In 2010 the BB asked you (Banks) not to take any money for application, but the banks took the fees anyway. From now, there should be no job application fees."
Moreover, in 2015, Dr Atiur Rahman, then governor of the Bangladesh Bank, said charging a job application fee is illogical, and it is difficult for young graduates to pay it, so this fee should not be imposed.
Educationist Prof Syed Manzoorul Islam also supported the students' demonstration against job application fees.
"It is not a huge sum of money for the government if it makes the process free for everyone," he said.
Prof Nehal Karim of the sociology department of Dhaka University said, "It is the government's duty to provide jobs for everyone without taking a job application fee. It should also provide allowances to jobless people."