EDITORIAL: Poverty decline slowing down

DHAKA (The Daily Star/ANN) - Job growth must be prioritised.

According to Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) data, while poverty continues to decline, its rate of decline is slowing down. The BBS conducted a survey on 46,080 households in 2016 which revealed that the percentage of poor people declined at a rate of 1.2 percent annually over the 2010-2016 period, which is lower than the 1.7 percent per annum reduction in poverty over the 2005-2010 timeframe. Economists are questioning the quality of growth because poverty reduction slowing down during a period of increased GDP growth appears to contradict conventional wisdom.

The key reason for this situation appears to be the slowdown in job creation in the non-agriculture sector. The study has also found that people were eating less because enough remunerative jobs are not being created despite the fact that the country has seen greater investments. According to BBS Quarterly Labour Force Surveys, female employment in industrial sector has declined by 1.13 million and in services by 1,50,000 in 2016 compared to 2013. This comes in the aftermath of the Rana Plaza disaster that ushered in an era of remediation and relocation of factories.

As we move into the age of robotics, the industrial sector is slowly moving into less labour-intensive operations causing more people to become dependent on agriculture finding no other viable alternatives. That poverty rates are declining brings us back to the question of whether the benefits of growth are trickling down to reach the most vulnerable in our society. While social safety net programmes contribute greatly to poverty reduction, more emphasis must be placed on creating jobs that can help people come out of poverty.

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