Youth Development means mainly the welfare of the youth by providing them with guidance, education, training and employment. Bracketed within the age-group of 15-30 years, the youth constitute over 30% of the population of Bangladesh. Around 75% of this age group lives in rural areas. Youths are a strategic segment of the population and organised youths can bring about critical changes in society.
In 1991, the youths accounted for 40% of total labour force of the country and the ratio for males was 36.7% and for females 45.8%. The youths being the most energetic, creative, dynamic and innovative segment of the labour force, was not considered in the past as a special group, for which the government could plan employment promotion programmes for sustained development. In 1978, the government of Bangladesh set up a new ministry with the name Ministry of Youth Development, which was later merged with the Ministry of Sports. The Department of Youth Development (DYD) was established in December 1980 and it started functioning in March 1981.
The youth development programmes of the government, especially those organised by the DYD provide vocational education and training to the underemployed and unemployed youth for their gainful employment and enhanced opportunities for income generation. About half of the total number of youths in the country are estimated to be unemployed or underemployed-handicapped with poverty and lack of adequate skill and training. Most young men and women, therefore, remain outside the mainstream of development paradigm. The government of Bangladesh implements a number of skill training and credit programmes to make the youth prepared for self-employment.
The First Five-Year Plan of Bangladesh (1973-78) indicated the need for an integrated approach for the development of the youth and the Plan pursued some limited social welfare oriented services to the youth through specialised establishments such as youth hostels and youth welfare centres. The Two-Year Plan (1978-80) allocated an amount of Tk 95 million for youth development programmes, of which Tk 70.1 million was utilised. The physical target set for the plan period (2 years) was to train 42,255 unemployed youths, of whom 36,200 were actually trained. Allocation for youth development programmes in the Second Five-Year Plan (1980-85) was Tk 260 million, of which Tk 196 million was utilised and approximately 42,000 unemployed youths received training in different vocations and trades and 2,999 youths took up self-employment projects during the plan period. The Third Five-Year Plan (1985-90) allocated Tk 170 million for continuation of youth development programmes. Implementation of a new project titled Thana Resource Development and Employment Project (TRDEP) aiming at poverty alleviation of the youth through self-employment started in July 1988 with an extra budgetary allocation of Tk 760 million. The physical target fixed under youth development programmes during the third Plan period was to train 43,935 unemployed youths and the achievement was 97.7% at the end of the plan period.
Youth development programmes of the Fourth Five-Year Plan (1990-95) envisaged self-employment promotion, poverty alleviation, skill development training and community development through voluntary youth organisations. Tk 1.6 billion was allocated through annual development programmes for implementation of these activities. The physical target set for the plan period was to train 358,701 youths in different trades, out of which 304,388 were actually trained. Expansion of microcredit facility among the trained youth was an important feature of youth development during this period. Credit disbursed during the plan period was Tk 306.9 million. TRDEP was extended to 32 thanas with the assistance of Asian Development Bank. The total number of target beneficiaries was 192,000 and all of them were brought under the microcredit network. Encouraged by the success of TRDEP, Family Based Employment Programme was undertaken in 50 selected thanas with a credit fund of Tk 1.25 billion during the plan period. Youth Training Centres on residential basis were expanded from 6 to 10 districts to train rural youths in livestock, fishery and tree plantation and also to motivate them to get involved in different socio-economic activities including literacy, primary healthcare, family welfare, environmental improvement, resource conservation, etc. Besides, 3 Zonal Resource Training Centres were established at 3 divisional headquarters to train landless rural beneficiaries in different socio-economic activities. Youth activities were expanded from 50 thanas of 31 districts to 230 thanas of 64 districts.
The major objectives of youth development programmes of the government are to encourage the youth for gainful self-employment through motivation, skill training, microcredit and other necessary input support and to expand facilities for improving working skills and suitable training in technical, vocational and professional fields. The allocation in the Fifth Five-Year Plan (1997-2002) for youth development programmes was Tk 6.28 billion and the distribution was: spillover projects (9) - Tk 4 billion, TRDEP - Tk 1.5 billion, skill development and training programme - Tk 0.25 billion, self-employment promotion for the trained youths - Tk 0.20 billion, community development through voluntary youth organisations - Tk 0.15 billion, population and family welfare programmes through youth clubs - Tk 0.030 billion, and involvement of college/university students/ educated youths in self-employment/national social service - Tk 0.15 billion.
Youth development programmes of the government have now been expanded to 480 upazilas. The DYD imparts residential training on livestock, poultry rearing and pisciculture to unemployed youths of the rural areas. 250,000 unemployed youths are now given skill development training annually on various trades through over 300 training centres in 64 districts. The trades include computers, electrical wiring, refrigeration and air-conditioning, repair of electronic items, etc. Different activities are also being pursued through youth clubs and these include empowerment of rural women, environmental protection, poverty alleviation, healthcare of mother and child and raising awareness about effects of high rate of growth of the population.
From 1981 upto December 2008, the DYD has imparted skill development training in various treades to 3 million, 94 thousand 949 youths of them, over 1.73 million have become self-employed. [Helal Uddin Ahmed]