The Youth Self-Employment Program of Bangladesh, ideal for Sri Lanka
Posted on January 29th, 2011

(This article is based on a Paper submitted by Dr. Garvin Karunaratne formerly of the SLAS, Ph.D.(Michigan State University)

In 1978 the Ministry of Youth Development in Bangladesh commenced technical and vocational training for youths. By 1980 around 30,000 youths were trained annually. The effort was on the accumulation of skills and technical knowledge and graduating the trainees with pomp and pageantry. The vast majority of the trained lapsed in to unemployment. After the coup de etat in 1982, Air Vice Marshall Aminul Islam the Hon. Minister for Labour and Manpower in reviewing the work done in youth development questioned Dr Garvin Karunaratne as to what contribution he could make to Bangladesh. His reply was to the effect that with training programmes involving 30,000 a year, with the trainees continuing to be unemployed at the end, the Ministry should establish an employment creation programme. This had created a furore with the Ministry of Finance insisting that employment creation is not a function of youth development. The greater problem was that a well funded and full fledged programme for self employment creation Implemented by the ILO in the three preceding years had ended in a miserable failure. Dr. Karunaratne had met all the arguments and had insisted that he could design and establish a self employment programme that would change the youth from being consumers in the economy to be net contributors by their becoming commercially viable entrepreneurs. He had been instructed to establish a self employment programme without the offer of any subsidies. No new vote was granted but funds already being spent for training could be diverted for extension work to guide youths when they commenced commercial projects. He had accepted the challenge. Work had commenced immediately, teaching youths basic economics and motivating them to establish small commercial ventures, where they were given intensive guidance. Based on the results in two months’ time a Pilot Project was formally approved.

The Design of the program as developed by Dr K in 1982-1983 took on the following form: Teaching basic economics to all trainees. This included costing material and labour, calculating profits/losses, commercial viability and strategies for maximizing production,

Studies in the economy, both local and national to ascertain areas of entrepreneurship where there was a high potential for employment creation,

Following the concepts of (1) Import substitution, (2) Self “”…”sufficiency, (3) Assessing Consumer Demand and Production to cater to such demand and (4) Self Reliance,

All Training Institutes were altered to handle training as well as employment creation. The latter was to be done by providing technical assistance to the youths who commenced their projects,

All projects were to involve their family members. This ploy brought in resources as well as expanded the scope of employment creation projects to include family support and family members,

No subsidies were given. Intensive non-formal education guidance was provided to enable the youths to develop their projects to become commercially viable within six months.

The Progress was outstanding. By Oct.1983 of the first 500 projects, 479 were commercially viable. By then 2,000 were being guided. Dr K served as the Commonwealth Fund General Advisor to the Ministry and his task was to design the Program, train the staff and establish the program on a definite basis. Comments on his performance by the Secretaries of the Ministry are as follows:

“Dr.Karunaratne’s significant contribution has been in the field of self employment to the drop-out youths. This programme was not only designed but also guided by him. This activity which was initially launched as a pilot experimental project has been a great success and has now being adopted as a fill-fledged Programme. The Government of Bamgladesh..has been successful in providing meaningful employment to a large number of youths on this Programme” .(Asafuddowlah)

Dr. Karunaratne’s role as the formulator of the program has been particularly commendable. It was mainly through his dedication and hard work that the pilot project has now been formally accepted as one of the most important development projects. (Ayubur Rahaman)

The Program was expanded to 7,000 by 1987, to 16,000 by 1992 and to 160,000 per year from 1997. by March 2008 2.9 million youth were trained of whom 56 % – 1.6 million are self employed on a commercially viable basis

The YSEP has stood the test of time for over two decades (1982-2010) The Five year plan of 1997-2002 devotes 8 pages to this program. This is easily the premier employment creation program that one can find in the world today. All other programs involve training and apprenticeship only and never include the tasks of motivating people, involving them in non-formal education endeavor to develop their abilities and capacities, through technical guidance and management advice provided as they work on their projects aimed at becoming commercially viable, which are the cornerstones on which the YSEP has been based. This is an ideal scheme for our country, let us obtain the services of Dr. Garvin Karunaratne to set up a programme similar to that which he set up in Bangladesh


One Response to “The Youth Self-Employment Program of Bangladesh, ideal for Sri Lanka”

  1. Fran Diaz Says:

    Congratulations to Dr Karunaratne for implementing this program to help youth to be self employed. Shouldn’t Sri Lanka authorities copy this program to fit the needs of Lanka’s Youth ?

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