[Note: I wrote this about a year back and found it yesterday while sorting the files. It is something we all should think about.]
I come from Bangladesh, a country used to be considered as a Least Developed one. But the consideration is on the verge to change as it has become a role model for the developing world.
Population has more than doubled since the liberation war in 1971, according to BBS it was about 152.5 million in 2012 (Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, 2012). Approximately, 1000 people live in per square kilometres, which is even more than India, double than USA and more than thrice than Australia (Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, 2012). The country is 3nd in South Asia and 9th in the world by population (US Bureau of the Census, July, 2013). In the post liberation period, US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger labelled Bangladesh as ‘Bottomless Basket’; Norwegian economist Faland, British economist Parkinson termed the country as a ‘Test Case’ for development (Rahman, 2013). Beside the international politics, there were enough symptoms to be labeled like this. For example, in the war devastative fragile economy, the per capita income was only $91.85 in 1972; more than 70 percent people lived below the poverty line in that year; the literacy rate was 16.8% at that time (Ministry of Education, Bangladesh, 2013); the country’s total budget was only BDT 5.01 billion having foreign aid of BDT 3.75 billion in fiscal year 1972-73 (CIA Fact Book, 2013); the export earning was less than $.327 billion in 1975 and the foreign remittance was only $ 23.71 million in 1975 (Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training, 2013).
But the country has recovered and developed significantly in most of the indicators mentioned above. Moreover, Bangladesh is one of the few countries to achieve some of the MDG goals before 2015. Dr. Atiur Rahman the governor of Bangladesh Bank in 2013 identified three major forces behind this development and stated
- the growing agricultural sector propelled by farmers and agriculturalists;
- the booming RMG sector contributed by workers; and
- The accelerating remittance aided by the expatriate laborers.
Now to get straight to the point, the economy is driven by this three sectors and total contribution of them is more than 90%. The labour force that is put into work are mostly young. It is necessary here to mention more than 50% of the total population is under 25 years of age. So there is a strong juvenile and young community already contributing in the GDP and others are getting ready to join. But rate of employment creation is not up to the mark and the gap between generations are quite visible.
As such the situation, generation contract is not something people often think about, but it is present as a part of culture. Like the rest of the world, Bangladesh faces some common problems like zooming healthcare costs, rising public debts, unequal distribution of wealth and most importantly loss of trust among the generations. The moral and ethical anchors are breaking every day, setting new standards. Standards that often becoming cause of social decay and violence. No wonder, these problems are unique in nature from other countries and it will be an obstacle in the path of ongoing growth of Bangladesh.
The change is visible. But there is no trust. From family to work, from school to university, from private to government, everywhere there is confusion and doubt. In the family, the parents can’t depend on their children any more. Before, children used to take care of their parents when parents got older. So, the elderly persons used to retire and contribute in domestic chores. There was a balance. Now, as the young people refuse to take care of the old ones, elderly people do not leave their jobs and they urge to increase the retirement age.
The respect for teachers has decreased, mutual respects included. From school to university, young try to change old values without consulting the elders. As a result, conflict of interest takes place and both sides lose. Often, the young are considered as threat. But it is often forgotten, whatever good has happened, it’s the combination of the two.
In the government offices, people do not want to leave a secured life as their jobs provide security. Also they do not want to take in ideas from young people as it would create problems for people accustomed with ongoing system. They prefer young persons with the mentality to go along with the system. In the private sector, youths are mostly preferred as they can work with less pay and it allows the employers to let go of the old employees.
These things are not secrets. As a result, there is little trust among the inter-generation colleagues. Even in most offices, one can find the conflict of interest. If a young person wants to go for a start-up business, he faces a lot of obstacles. Mostly created by the people engaged in the same sector for generations. They take it as a threat for their business and for themselves.
When a father walks with his child and sees a group of young men hanging out on the street now-a-days, the attitude of the young make him feel scared. This was not the scenario 20 years ago. 20 years back, young people used to show respect more to their elders, used to help them in any means possible. The blessings of the elders used to mean something for them. Now, that has all changed. And the effect is seen at every level. This father being a person who is associated with the process of recruitment would not want to hire someone who resembles the young people of the street. And often a young person do not have the dedication which is required for an institution. Also, the institution may not guarantee safety for the new employees who will give the prime time of their life.
There is also no social security services. As a result, insecurity is ubiquitous. In a society where agriculture is the main sector, people at least know that they can survive by doing agricultural work. Now as Bangladesh walks toward becoming a developed country, its economy has shifted from agriculture base to industry base. Remittance and Garments export keeping the economy running. Also the number of people with higher educational degree and expectation to get a desk job is on the rise. This shift in economy has changed the unwritten generation contract that used to be in place. Even 20 years before, people could say a farmer’s son would become a farmer, maybe more educated. But he would continue to work in the fields. And there was this transfer of knowledge, security, property and debt. This paradigm can be given for any field, 20 years ago. Now as more young people thrive to take office or desk jobs, there is insecurity and trust issues.
I experienced such in my life too. I saw my parents suffer because they chose to do something that their parents never wanted them to do. As a result, they had no support at all from them and struggled their way towards becoming successful in life. Having the courage to come out of box and do something is good, I admit. But in this modern times, to do something meaningful in life, not just to survive-people of all generations in a family should work together.
The solution is simple for me—go back to the old system. Regain trust of each other. I think if the older people are given time to retire from their work and help in the domestic works, it will definitely help everyone. The children will be growing up with proper guidance and parents (young) will be relieved. Also, young people who have to learn from the experts need to show respect as well. The young people need to have more patience. Older generations should have the right kind of mind set to give space to the young deserving people.
The best thing to do is create opportunities for them to talk. Not many people talk with considerable attention with their younger or older generations. That is one vital thing missing in relationships these days. Sitting in one table and talking can solve many issues.
So my proposal is-to start dividing the responsibilities and not to break into more isolated nuclear families. It all starts from the family. We need to return to family for making things go right, socially and economically. Staying together does have it’s own issues, but it can save us from a lot of problems that we have seen in the last couple of decades. A family together can save people from financial troubles and social problems. We have to remember we—the young people cannot go further keeping our older generation in darkness. Also, older generation should remember that they have must try to understand the new ideas. Their next generation does not pose any threat to them rather they can make their life easy. We should all work together in this. Without working together, such issues can’t be solved. Our GDP may flourish, our reserve may increase, but the social development that is required for a developed society will become a problem for Bangladesh.
(2012, July 02). Retrieved from Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics: http://www.bbs.gov.bd
(2013, June). Retrieved from Ministry of Education, Bangladesh: http://www.moedu.gov.bd
(2013). Retrieved from Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training: http://www.bmet.gov.bd/
CIA Fact Book. (2013).
Rahman, A. (2013). Four Decades of Bangladesh.
(July, 2013). US Bureau of the Census.