Foreign Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Mr. Samir Sharan, President, ORF
Esteemed moderators and panelists,
Faculty Members and participating students,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
There is hardly any moment happier for me than being with the leading students of our country, prepared to take the responsibility of tomorrow. Today we will have comprehensive conversation about the best waysto develop young people in Bangladesh, providing them with awareness of skills that would need to contribute and participate in the fourth industrial revolution (4IR). In this era of globalization, Bangladeshis an integrated economy with significant growth history and future potential.Due to the visionary leadership of the Hon’ble Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, we now see Bangladesh as a perfect platform of innovation to leap into the future prosperity of the rest of the world.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Good news is unprecedented technological advances are opening new opportunities and potential for economies to improve productivity at a rate faster than our imagination. However, bad news is with the introduction of new and emerging technologies, many labor-intensive jobs are likely to be replaced or lost, while others may require re-skilling of workers to the new systems. And many types of new jobs are likely to be created which are not even conceived of today. Now the most important question is; whether our education and skills development systems, particularly those in the developing countries like Bangladesh, are capable of preparing the workforce with the adequate skills and knowledge to take advantage of new technologies in their workplaces or elsewhere. The outcomes of this technological revolution are occurring inan environment of unparalleled global connectivity and inter-dependency and demographic change. However, this also has the risk of perpetuating and wideningexisting gaps between those who are prepared for 4IRand those who are not. For nearly 1.8 billion global youth whotoday are between the ages of 15 and 29, this revolution may significantly shape their roles as the future workers, consumers and competitors and even leaders. For Bangladesh, there is no option but to make right choice and take adequate preparation so that our youths can fully exploit this advantage of technology.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Under the dynamic leadership of the Hon’ble Prime Minister, we have been able to achieve high sustainable growth over the past decade and now moving ahead with various roadmaps to achieve our vision of 2021, 2041, 2030. To achieve our goals, future prosperity and development, we will need new skills of development in future; we would need skilled human resource. We are lucky that nearly 59% of our population is below the age of 25 years and one-third of the nation’s population is between 18-34 years of age. To get demographic dividends, we would need to provide them quality education, requisite skills training and gainful employment. But the government alone will not be able to fulfill all the demands. Private sector, development partners NGOs, academic leadership have to come forward and join in our efforts. We should also be prepared to acquire skills to satisfy the needs of the other countries as well, because many of them will have shortage of young population with proper skills appropriate for the emerging world of technology.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Bye the bye, technology is not only new equipments, computers and hard wares. It also includes knowledge-based rules, regulations, systems, processes and procedures. Since our system, processes and procedures is still weak, therefore, “doing business in Bangladesh” takes 176 days, not 176 minutes. Let us work together and focus our attention also in the improvement of our decision making processes and procedures.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
According to Professor Klaus Schwab, 4IR is a fusion of technologiesthat is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, andbiological spheres. In the same way, when it comes to new technology and new networks, there are seemingly unlimited possibilities for increased human connectivity and access to knowledge. These possibilities will be increased manifold by emerging technologies like Artificial Intelligence, robotics, automation, autonomous transportation, 3-D printing even of human organs, biotechnology and development of synthetic organisms and bio-sensors, nanomaterials, cryptocurrency, block chain, quantum computing and above all, the internet of things. Unfortunately, as per him this development could potentially displace more than 5 million jobs by 2020, with most of this loss concentrated in low- and middle-skill jobs (WEF March 2018). Professor Schwab has further noted that the three biggest companies in Detroit in 1990 car manufacturers had revenues of USD 250bn and employed 1.2 million employees; in 2014, the three biggest companies in Silicon Valley were generating roughly the same revenues (USD 247bn) with almost 10 times fewer employees (137,000).So losing huge number of jobs is a real story of the future.
On the other hand, according to the Education Commission (2017), it is predicted that by 2030, more than half of the nearly 2 billion youth worldwide will not have the skills or qualifications necessary to participate in the emerging global workforce. In practical terms, this translates to more than 50 percent of tomorrow’s human capital being potentially unprepared to enter the workforce of tomorrow. So we will have two extreme scenarios in future when millions of jobs will be lost but at the same time, millions of jobs will not be filled. This very future will be a challenge for many but in Bangladesh we want to see this as an opportunity for us. Already on 6 March at American Workforce Policy Advisory Board Meeting at White House, CEOs of 25 major companies of US including Apple, IBM, Lockheed Martin and Siemens told US President that they were no longer hiring persons based on college degrees. Apple CEO Tim Cook said that nearly 50% of the people hired by Apple last year did not have traditional four year degrees. Lockheed Martin hired 14,000 people last year without conventional education degrees. So the process has already started. Dear students, Here I must clarify that the importance of traditional education degrees is not being undermined in any way but it also shows that if you have special skill, ability and training then you can outperform the conventional education degrees. Learning and earning will be just two sides of the same coin for you. May I remind you that Bill Gates is a drop out but his determination and ingenuity helped him to excel in life.
The time to act is now.Our today’s workers are tomorrow’s employers. The digital economy of future that we talk about is actually not different from thehabitualreal economy of today. It is just a matter of transformation of the nature and methods whereas the original principles remain the same. So our digital future is mainly based on the preparation at the present. However, the present Government under the visionary leadership of Sheikh Hasina is prepared to face the future at every sphere of the society and nation-building. The Government proposes to achieve all the relevant SDGs by 2030. In order to achieve our roadmaps, our 2011 National Skill Policy, the 2017 National Youth Policy, 7th Five Year Plan, SDG attainment strategies, policies and plans, all are geared to bridge the gap of our existing and future workforce by attaining excellence through skill based education and training. Our election manifesto also clearly charted out our future path for youth employment for today and tomorrow including the physically and mentally handicapped. And along with the future of jobs, we must also take decision about the future of our education. The unprecedented scientific and technological developments have greatly challenged our traditional thinking. FuturisticSTEM curriculum should be introduced though I know that finding adequate teachers would be difficult for the time-being. We should gradually shift our emphasis from content based education to skill based education.
Ladies and gentlemen,
We cannot wait for crossing the tipping point of time. If we do not take the advantage of the opportunity, somebody else will take that fortune. I believe that the eminentexperts present here will provide us a deep understanding of the global scenario of skills development and will give us an insight into the future. I would also be pleased to business leaders take a leading role in it. The dialogue will increase our understanding of the 4IR and its impact on our country, our region and on global structure of jobs and skills. We will explore what these changes entail for human resources development and future job creation; the skills needed to adapt to changing labour market needs; and how the private and public sectors can best work together to meet evolving challenges. Last week Education Ministry and WB jointly organised similar skill development workshop. Each participant shared their experiences, practices and wisdom. Let us hope that these deliberations crystallise into meaningful awareness and initiation in schools, universities, factories and the like.
I again thank all of you especially the bright students from different universities for being with us. Your comments, observations and interventions may help us a long way to understand and prepare today for a prosperous tomorrow.
Thank you all.