From an external perspective, the Bangladeshi labor market is an interesting phenomenon, with various intricacies and a multitude of systemic problems. However, for someone who is actively involved in this market – especially if it is a recent graduate – it is a nightmare.

If we boil this down to a simple note, the problem with our job market, especially for young people, is caused by the dearth of entry-level job openings versus an excess of graduates. An economics graduate might say this is a “high supply, low demand” situation. A business graduate’s thoughts might revolve around the will of the “free” market.

While both of these opinions may be correct, there is a good chance that the economics graduate and the BBA graduate are unemployed, and this is not a comment on their abilities or qualifications, but on the market.

We often get caught up in discussions about youth employment, but one topic we forget to talk about is whether those who are hired are even paid a fair wage. Looking at the state of entry wages in Bangladesh, it becomes increasingly clear that there is a high level of dissatisfaction.

After talking to several entry-level job holders, it seems that the average entry-level monthly salary in Bangladesh is between 20,000 and 30,000 BDT.

If we compare the salary to the average living expenses in Dhaka, we start to paint a rather gloomy picture. According to data collected as part of a recent study by the Center for Policy Dialogue (CPD), the average cost of living for a person – who follows a regular diet and lives in a one-bedroom apartment in the center – city ​​- was calculated at around 23,003 BDT per month. , in May 2022.

On closer inspection, this data was based on assumptions that do not meet what many young people would consider minimum standards. For example, the cost of transport for a given working day was calculated at 80 BDT, while no travel cost was taken into account for non-working days. As for hygiene expenses, the calculation included five regular sanitary pads, whereas most women need 5-6 times more for a usual cycle.

It is a fair assumption that the numbers based on the study are significantly deflated. Given the state of entry-level salaries and the fact that many new graduates must also cover the costs of family members, making ends meet is not always an easy task.

The spotlight is now on new graduates, or those about to enter the job market, because these jobs, at least in their initial stages, are among the lowest paying in our country.

But why is this? Why do our young people have to struggle financially despite obtaining these positions?

Farhan Mahmud*, junior web developer at a local software company in Dhaka, and Shweta Saha*, intern at an international non-governmental organization share their experiences.

“My first internship was in a marketing agency that paid 4,000 taka per month,” says Shweta. “At first, I didn’t mind. People around me always said that the first internships should be about learning and experience, not pay. I took them at their word. At least I could learn something and enrich my CV.”

Soon, Shweta realized that her internship offered very little in terms of skill development. “I was tasked with developing my skills on my own without any mentorship,” she recalls.

Farhan’s experience as a web development intern was slightly better. Despite a mediocre salary, his employers offered him practical training. However, after the internship ended, Farhan was not very happy with their full-time offer.

“They offered me a job and with a salary of 20,000 taka,” says Farhan. “I didn’t like it at first, but I took the job anyway. My superiors told me it was just the beginning and I could ask for more later. It never happened. , as wage negotiations were discouraged there.”

Wage negotiations are vital at this time, given the instability of the global economy. Freshmen know this, and despite their best efforts to negotiate a raise, most of them are turned down.

“The ad agency I worked for never considered raises on their own,” Shweta says. “They only raised wages when a more senior employee tried to quit.”

Farhan had a similar experience with salary negotiations. “I knew I could be replaced easily,” he says, explaining why he didn’t push hard for a raise. “With so many CSE graduates, it wouldn’t take long for them to find a replacement. However, if a senior, more experienced developer approached them for a raise, they would in most cases be obliged.”

Nayem Chowdhury*, an experienced candidate, struggles to find a job after leaving the last one. “Based on my experience, working as a full-time employee for nearly 10 years, I’ve been called in for many interviews, but even with enough experience, it’s hard to find employers willing to respect my range. expected salary,” he shared.

Why are employers so reluctant to pay a decent amount even to experienced candidates at the start? Also, do they consider the latest economic situation in the country when evaluating their salary packages?

Parisa Mumtahin*, HR manager at an IT company, shares her thoughts.

“When preparing salary packages for employees, we consider factors such as house rent, transportation, medical allowance, inflation rate, etc.,” Parisa explains. “We also review our compensation packages every year.”

“We refer to a standard salary grid when hiring,” she adds. “Otherwise, if we hire an executive who earns more than the current executive, our current employees may be dissatisfied. Therefore, if the candidates’ salary expectations exceed this amount, we enter into a formal negotiation process with them.”

“There’s no added pressure to save money when hiring new employees, and exceptions are often made based on the candidate’s qualifications and experience,” Parisa continues.

However, a beginner is unlikely to have high qualifications and experience. For them, the only hope of earning a living wage is to find a workplace that offers starters a compensation package without demanding too much of them, or allows them to negotiate a raise if necessary, such as during price hikes. Unfortunately, these companies are few in number.

Sohel Mahmud*, chief consultant at an HR and management company, provided more details on this.

“In terms of creating salary packages, it varies from company to company,” says Sohel. “Well-structured companies, usually multinationals, conduct market analysis to establish salary packages. For these companies, it is about offering salaries that can match those of their direct competitors. Smaller organizations generally choose to create packages based on the expectations of new recruits or by allocating part of their budget for this.

“Living expenses are taken into account when defining entry-level packages,” he adds. “But sometimes it can be difficult because smaller companies might not have the budget for it.”

When asked how often the salary should be reviewed and the ideal way to create an entry-level package, Sohel replied, “A good company should review its existing salary packages every two years. An analysis of Market must be conducted to see what other companies are doing Pay and cost of living must be taken into account to ensure employees have a decent standard of living Employers must also pay for the skills they need. paying recruits means you’re undervaluing the skills your company needs. Pay packages that allow new recruits to thrive.”

There is a lot to unpack when discussing the issue of new grads and how often they are underpaid. Right now, in the current economic climate of Bangladesh, the focus should be on how employers can accommodate these freshmen so that they can afford a life in Dhaka or one cities in the country.

If we don’t, our young people won’t bring positive change to our economy – an economy where most of them have nowhere to go.

*Names have been changed upon request

Faisal Bin Iqbal is sub-editor and digital coordinator at SHOUT, The Daily Star.

Aaqib Hasib is Deputy Editor at Arts & Entertainment, The Daily Star.