Launching of “Future of Work Lab” in Dhaka

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in collaboration with its Bangkok Regional Hub, launched the Future of Work Lab in Bangladesh on Thursday aiming to facilitate and accelerate Bangladesh towards a more robust economy keeping into account many challenges it is facing.

Deputy Resident Representative of UNDP, Van Nguyen delivered the welcome remarks at the virtual launching.

Kanni Wignaraja, UN assistant secretary-general and Assistant Administrator & Director of the Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific, UNDP were also present.

Located in Bangladesh, the lab will support the Asia Pacific region, says a media release on Friday.

“Its success will very much depend on the partnerships it forms… it requires a network of public and private sector, UN partners such as ILO and the Office of SS, academia and NGOs,” said Kanni Wignaraja.

“If countries, communities and households are going to have a chance to recover and get back to having a decent and sustainable means of livelihood, then the future of work must be addressed and it must be done quickly,” said Wignaraja.

She mentioned that four key issues frame the agenda for future of work — digital transformation, green jobs, reliance of adaptive techniques, and closing the gender gap in jobs. A report titled “Post COVID-19 Jobs and Skills in Bangladesh” was also launched at the session, which identifies 11 high impact sectors where jobs have been lost, and five emerging sectors where new jobs are being created.

Over the next 20 years, huge changes are expected in the Future of Work (FoW) for Bangladesh as automation, artificial intelligence, fourth industrial revolution and other trends, such as the shift to a circular economy threaten existing jobs in key industries such as garments and textiles.

SDG Integration Lead of UNDP Bangkok Regional Hub, Christine Wellington-Moore and Lead of Future of Work and South- South Cooperation Team at a2i, Asad-Uz-Zaman delivered a presentation on FoW Lab in Bangladesh.

A recent study commissioned by a2i suggested that due to COVID-19, 20.45 million people already lost their jobs in the following sectors:


  • informal and SME
  • transportation
  • construction
  • furniture
  • RMG & textile
  • leather goods & footwear
  • tourism & hospitality
  • light engineering
  • migration
  • ceramic
  • real estate & housing


It also shows that by the end of 2021, 3.92 million new jobs will be created in emerging sectors such as:


  • agro-food
  • healthcare
  • pharmaceuticals
  • ICT & e-commerce
  • creative media sector


a2i has worked with the Bangkok Regional Hub to develop Future of Work Lab, which will move beyond merely matching demand and skill to take into account social protection, safe migration of workers, entrepreneurship support, digital transformation to ensure continuity of public and private sector services, and resilience of key supply chains etc.

During a panel discussion, Sudipto Mukerjee, resident representative of UNDP said, “In Bangladesh, there is a mixed trend in terms of business. Some big corporate will use this to invest in generating social goodwill. Investments will be made to make the supply chain more resilient towards climate change and other issues”.

“Another group will repurpose, for example, RMG producers might opt to produce PPEs. But there will be another category, although reducing in numbers that will continue to be irresponsible and exploitive. This last group has to be monitored by the government. We have to help ease the process of transition. This is a time for solidarity and all of us need to come and work together.”

Cabinet Secretary Khandker Anwarul Islam said, “Whenever ambitious plans such as Future of Work Lab are developed, we do it in the face of challenges. This time, the challenge is the pandemic. But there are advantages as well — this fiscal year’s budget has a 14 per cent allocation for the social safety net. We have recently approved a three-billion-dollar programme for youth’s skill-building. So, there is reason for optimism for the future.”

Denis Nkala, Regional Coordinator (Asia – Pacific) at United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation, Denis Nkala; UNDP Bhutan Resident Representative Azusa Kubota; UNDP Maldives RR Akiko Fujii and Policy Adviser of a2i, Anir Chowdhury also spoke in the panel.


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