Creating Employment and Incomes- the need of the hour
Posted on April 18th, 2022

by Garvin Karunaratne

I enclose a write up of my Youth Self Employment Programme in Bangladesh, written by me in 2016, which details  how the Programme came into being. It is hoped that this writing detailing  how Bangladesh succeeded in employment creation may offer ideas to our leaders to get out of the problems that beset our economy today. 

Starting from scratch, without any subsidies or grants whatsoever, we had only our voices to convince the 40,000 youths who were being trained to commence some activity to get into production.  I trained the youth officers that had hitherto attended to only welfare oriented youth work to get down to economic development. Today(2022) the number of youths that have been guided to become self employed is well over three million. 

 It is hoped that this true story will encourage our leaders to create an employment creation programme that can settle the poverty and  deprivation that has beset our Motherland today. The current lack of employment  and incomes, and the increases in prices due to devaluation merits a series of similar programmes creating employment to emerge immediately.

Not a dollar or a single cent is required to commence a similar programme. That is how Bangladesh has succeeded even to get to a position to help Sri Lanka with $ w20 million.  

If any detail is required I am available on garvin_karunaratne@  It will be a pleasure to provide details.

The Youth Self Employment Program of Bangladesh.

The Ministry of Youth Development where I was working as a two year consultant from the Commonwealth Secretariat was attending to traditional youth work and providing skills training to 40,000 youths annually. The Military Government that took over in 1982 expressed dissatisfaction with the programmes and at an Evaluataion, presided over by Air Vice Marshall Aminul Islam, the Minister for Labour and Manpower, I was questioned as to what contribution I could make for Bangladesh.

I replied that it would be ideal to have a Self Employment Program which will guide and train the youths undertaking skills programs to become self employed. I was told blankly that this was something that can never be achieved because The ILO had miserably failed to establish a self employment program in Tangail in the earlier three years. The Secretaries of the Finance and other Ministries strongly objected, stating that it would end up in a waste of funds and also that the Youth Ministry shoulod not be entrusted with the task of creating employment opportunities. I argued that though the ILO failed, I had the ability to assure that I would succeed because I had established many employment projects in my work in Sri Lanka. I also argued that youth work should concentrate on skills training and guiding the trained to establish enterprises. The Hon Minister listened carefully to an easy two hours’ arguments between me and the Secretaries of some Line Ministries. He ordered all of us to shut up and asked the Secretaries for the number of drop outs of the education system in any one year, those who would be searching for employment without any qualification. The answer was in the millions. Then he asked for the number of youths who would be guided to become self-employed through Government Programs. The answer was none. He immediately ruled that I should be allowed to establish a youth self employment program. The Secretary to the Treasury immediately vetoed it by stating that there were no funds. I immediately said that I needed no funds, but authority should be granted for the Ministry to re deploy officers, redraft their work remits and to find savings within the skills training budgets for expenses on holding workshops to train and guide youths to become self employed. The Hon Minister granted that request.

The Ministry of Labour and Manpower got cracking the very next day, identifying key areas where the work will commence, drafting training schedules to train the staff who attended to skills training on how to guide the youths to make their own assessment of how they can be self employed in their habitat. The Ministry took over elements of national planning, in identifying areas where there was a potential for youths tpo become self employed. I with a core of officials addressed the 40,000 youths in training on identifying areas where they could generate incomes, and how they should draft plans to be self employed. It was to be a family basis where the parents and elders of the youths were also consulted. All skills training institutes were activated till late at night to enable youths to uitilize the machinery to make something that could be sold. What they made was evaluated at the next days training and this took on a process of training to make marketable products. The three Livestock and Poultry Training Institutes of the Ministry established an extension service to help youths who commence farms in their homes. The Deputy Directors of Youth Development in charge of Districts took on the mantle of guiding the youths to establish income generation activities and guiding them on a day to day basis. In short the Ministry of Youth Development became in facto a Ministry creating employment and providing training for that purpose/.

In 1982 I commenced training the staff in economics and techniques of community development and non formal education where the thrust was to enable youths to make their own decisions and develop their abilities to makew them become successful entrepreneurs. I was training 2000 youths and also training the staff to continue the program when I leave.

The design of the program and my accomplishment is recorded in the certificates issued by the two Secretaries with whom I worked.

Mr Ayubur Rahaman, The Secretary to the Ministry wrote on 5/10/1983:

His contribution towards successful launching of a number of skills development training programsto promote employment of youths deserves special appreciation. His role as formulator of the self employment project has been particularly commendable. Dr Karunaratne applied his initiative, skills, expertise and energy on training of youth officers, preparation of business profiles for encouraging self employment and guding youths to formulate small projects. It was mainly through his dedication and hard work that the pilot program for self employment has now been formally accepted as one of the most important development projects to be implemented by the Youth Development Department.”

Mr Md. Asafuddowlah, Joint Secretary on 28/8/1983:

Dr Karunaratne’s significant contribution has been in the field of self employment to the drop out youths. This Programme was not only designed by him but also guided by him. This activity which was initially launched as a pilot experimental project has been a great success and has now been adopted as a full fledged programme of the Youth Development Department. This is a non subsidy programme in which the youths are subjected to non formal education inputs while they are engaged in viable bur small scale commercial ventures. The Government has been successful in providing meaningful employment to age number of youths on this programme”.

Mr Md Asafuddowlah, Secretary to the Ministry, on 20/2005

“You will be happy to learn that the Self Employment Program of the Youth Development Department has expanded across the country and attained great success. I have not forgotten your valuable contribution to the success of this programme.”

The Programme has been expanded apace. On 19/2/2011, the Government of Bangladesh, in its Report to the 34 th Session of the IFAD(FAO) stated that two million youths have found self employment on this Programme.

Today this is the largest employment creation program the world has known.

Garvin Karunaratne

Commonwealth Fund Advisor on Youth Development. to the Ministry of Labour and Manpower, Bangladesh in 1981-1983

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