A huge number of Bangladeshi expatriates employed in blue-collar jobs might have to return home as two billion jobs will be displaced by 2030 because of technological advancement, experts said yesterday.

“The fourth industrial revolution represents an existential threat to companies in every industry,” said Mushfiq Ahmed, director of Digital Transformation at eGeneration.

Lots of expatriates might also come back from the market as their skills will not match with the technological advancement.

At the same time, if the country's youth can be equipped with the right skill set over the next five years, many new avenues for manpower export will open up.

At present, youth comprises 65 percent of the Bangladesh's population.

“Countries like Saudi Arabia would be Bangladesh's major market,” Ahmed said at a discussion styled “4th Industrial Revolution - Are we ready?” at Brac Centre Inn in Dhaka.

A study found that Bangladesh would lose some 53.8 lakh jobs by 2041 from only five areas for the advent of automation in industries, according to Md Mustafizur Rahman, project director of the Access to Information project under the Information Communication Technology Division.

Of the five sectors, garment will be the worst sufferer as there is a possibility of 27 lakh jobs being lost.

The furniture sector will lose 13.8 lakh jobs, agro-processing and tourism 6 lakh jobs each and leather another 1 lakh jobs.

“This is a huge threat for us. So, if we can't turn this challenge into an opportunity, we will miss the train and we will not be able to make up for it anymore,” he added.

Telecom and ICT Minister Mustafa Jabbar acknowledged the challenges, saying Bangladesh missed the first three industrial revolutions.

“But the country will lead the world in the 4th industrial revolution. So, there is nothing to worry about. We will create more jobs and re-modify some jobs before the revolution hits.”

The minister said developing proper human resources is a challenge for Bangladesh, so the education system has to be made more technology-driven.

“We will make ICT education mandatory at the primary level at any cost, like we did at the secondary level a few years ago,” he added.

The fourth industrial revolution could contribute to sustainable development if both the private and public sectors adopt new technologies in the right way, said Osama Taseer, president of the Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

“Adopting smart manufacturing, analytics and Internet of Things (IoT) can give a new lease of life to the industrialisation in Bangladesh,” he added.

Some institutions have already introduced high-class technology but merchants are not ready yet in many cases, said Anis A Khan, managing director of Mutual Trust Bank.

“Everybody is not ready to face the fourth revolution,” he added.

The very primary phase of the fourth industrial revolution has already arrived in Bangladesh as local IT companies have started making solutions using disruptive technologies like blockchain, IoT and artificial intelligence, said Shameem Ahsan, chairman of eGeneration Group.

Abdullah H Kafi, a former president of the Asian-Oceanian Computing Industry Organisation, emphasised on adoption of short- and long-term policies to face the challenges.



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