One of the prime objectives of development plan in any country is to augment the employment opportunity .In practical term this means creation of new room for employment. Other objectives of development are increasing gross domestic product (GDP), per capita income, export earning, equitable distribution and efficient utilization of resources and conservation of environment. Employment generation carries greater weight from political and social viewpoints.
Employment is an effective instrument to ensure distributive justice and alleviation of poverty. Provision of employment not only guarantees an assured income for an individual, it also bestows dignity on him, renders his life meaningful and enhances his level of happiness, however small that may be. Employment data are very seriously taken in developed countries. The quarterly economic reports are primarily based on employment data. A negative swing in the employment data is a source of concern for the government and the common citizens. Employment is usually provided through productive activities.
Production is a function of capital and labour. Land is now included in the capital though it was shown as a separate factor of production in the classical analysis. Organisation or enterprise may also be shown as a separate factor of production. Entrepreneurs are held in high esteem in the society because they mobilize other factors of production and activate the production process. Cashing on this, they finagle substantial advantages from the relevant authorities. Sometimes they exaggerate their role in the economic arena and exert unethical pressure on the administration to realize extra benefits for them. The burden of their argument resides in the creation of new employment for the citizens which is instrumental for the stability in the society and amelioration of poverty. Government is ready to buy this argument and provide the facilities they ask for.
Big entrepreneurs provide employment to a large number of people. They command high adoration. Allegations may pile up against the entrepreneurs pointing to irregularities, rule bending, exploitation of labourers, delinquent behaviour. They brush aside all these allegation on the plea of employment generation. They have established big organizations of the employers. They employ high salaried staffs for this organization who can prepare high quality articles and write-ups, establish strong linkage with government and autonomous bodies to realize various benefits for the big employers. They effectively communicate with international organizations to garner recognition for their organization. As a result big employers are invited to international seminars and conferences. They become a part of the international network. In short big employers enjoy high social carriage beside financial benefits.
Small and medium entrepreneurs have recently organized themselves into a formidable pressure group following the line of big entrepreneurs. Non-government organizations (NGOs) have embarked on myriad advocacy programmes in support of small and medium entrepreneurs. Their demands are marshaled mostly towards banks and financial institutions. The demands are very rational. Notwithstanding the limited job creation at the individual level, the aggregate contribution of small and medium entrepreneurs in the economic progress of the country cannot be overemphasized. They serve sizeable number of people in their limited spheres. Their personal touch and care are imprinted on goods and services they deliver. Support of the civil society and the media towards small and medium entrepreneurs is assured. The propitious situation has invited a fierce competition among banks to exhibit their support for the sub-sector through disbursing loans to individual units. Loans extended to this sub-sector is taken as a measure of performance in corporate social responsibility (CSR). These days small and medium entrepreneurs are catapulted to VIP status in the country. Their organizations have perched themselves into influential circles of the society. In future they may find themselves placed at par with the big entrepreneurs of the country.
The interactions of the small and medium entrepreneurs with their employees and the members of the public are far greater than the big entrepreneurs. Small and medium entrepreneurs supervise the work of their employees personally. At times they work with the employees, enquire about their welfare and stand by them personally in trying circumstances. The work environment in these units is often marked with sympathy and happy tone. This results in improved quality of goods and services. It will not therefore be unfair to underscore the importance of this group of entrepreneurs in the societal and national context. The supporters of small and medium entrepreneurs contend that they outshine the big entrepreneurs in the area of innovative efforts. The big entrepreneurs, they hold, use imported technology in order to pursue routine line of production. It is beyond their imagination to use home-grown technology through innovative application because of convoluted production process and hefty investment needed to take any innovative move. They do not like to plunge into any risky adventure.
We now take up the case of the smallest but important employers of the country. An individual or a family may be the employer of one person or more depending on the circumstances. The employed persons receive their weekly, monthly, quarterly or yearly remuneration from the individual or family employer on a regular basis. He maintains himself or his family with this remuneration. In short the individual or the family provides for his employment. The domestic aid, the driver of the family car, house guard, caretaker of the house, the assistant of the lawyer, the helper of the grocery shop, the personal staff of the artiste and the film stars belong to this category. It has been observed through casual empiricism that the middle class or higher middle class family in Dhaka city on average employs five to seven persons on a monthly or weekly remuneration. These families spend on average twenty five to thirty thousand taka on the family workers. Each middle class family on average employs about four persons. There may be about 1.5 million families in the category of small employers. Persons employed by individuals and families will add up to about 6.0 million, not a small number by any count. This area of employment generation has been conspicuously missing in media reports, research papers or government documents.
Some adverse reports are published about maltreatment of the domestic aid by the family employers. In reality, the number is few and far between; may not be more than 0.01 per cent. We ardently support moves to protect the rights of the domestic aids, ensure congenial work environment and fair wage for them. We at the same time hold that the society and the government must appreciate the measures taken by the individuals and families to provide viable employment to job seekers in the poverty group. The employers in this sphere are not organized. They are not aware of their position in the national context. They do not have the coherence and solidarity to realize their rightful claims vis a vis the government. So they do not enjoy any benefit as employers. Neither the government nor the society has recognized their contribution to employment creation. No organization or group has expressed its support to this segment of employers. They could not lobby with the appropriate authorities to promote their causes. Result: they have been ignored and undermined. It will not be a hyperbole to say that they have been deprived of their due share of recognition.
Small employers at the family level supervise the work of their employees personally. At the same time they unwittingly accomplish on the job training for these employees. Most of the domestics join the family as untrained neophytes. Housewives provide hands on training to them. When they learn the job, they demand higher remuneration or leave to join other house or establishment. The drill starts afresh for the housewife: new appointment and fresh on the job training. It has also been observed that new drivers have somehow learnt how to drive a car; he has no idea about rules on the road, etiquette, responsibilities as a driver. A long and arduous on the job training is provided by the owner of the car to help the driver graduate to a satisfactory level. A reservoir of trained manpower is created in this manner. The role of the small employers at the individual or family level in developing human capital is yet to be recognized.
This sort of recognition will not automatically come from exogenous circle. Small employers themselves have to clinch the recognition for them. They have to mobilise themselves for this purpose. They have to build their organisational clout. A formidable publicity and advocacy campaign needs to be waged to articulate their demands effectively. Small employers will succeed in their campaign if they can articulate their demands and set their goals correctly and proceed with courage and determination.
Saadat Husain is a former chairman of Bangladesh Public Service Commission and also a former cabinet secretary. He can be reached at