Dhaka, Friday, 23 July 2021

3.5 lakh RMG workers lost jobs during COVID-19 pandemic

3.5 lakh RMG workers lost jobs during COVID-19 pandemic

Apparel Correspondent: The readymade garment (RMG) sector plays a major role in the employment and export economy of the country. A total of 3,57,000 RMG workers have lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic, revealed a recent study jointly carried out by the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), BRAC University's Center for Entrepreneurship Development (CED) and the Mapped in Bangladesh (MIB).

The "Vulnerability, Resilience and Recovery in the RMG Sector in view of COVID-19 Pandemic: Findings from the Enterprise Survey" found that financial management of RMG sector breaks down. Most of the RMG factories, including the big ones, did not have any financial plan to deal with any immediate crisis. Till April, 56 percent of the factories are uncertain about the purchase order.

Research Director of the CPD, Dr Khondaker Golam Moazzem presented the survey's findings at a webinar, while MIB's Project Manager Syed Hasibuddin Hussain moderated the event.

Giving the welcome speech, CPD's Executive Director, Dr Fahmida Khatun, said, “The survey was conducted in a total of 610 RMG factories to analyze the resilience and vulnerability of the sector during COVID-19 pandemic. The survey provides a medium-term proposition on the recovery of the RMG sector.”

In introductory remarks, Syed Hasibuddin Hussain discussed various aspects of this research and noted the importance of obtaining information.

Dr Khondaker Golam Moazzem said, “The application process of stimulus packages needs to be made easier for small businesses. Factories that are not members should be included in the association. The process of paying workers through banking channels needs to be worked out.”

He added that the Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA) and the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) should come forward to complete the list of workers properly.

The survey also highlighted the need for greater emphasis on the health and safety of factory workers.

He further said, “Foreign direct investment (FDI) should be considered for the future development of the RMG sector.”

Highlighting the contribution of women workers in the RMG industry, Shirin Akhtar MP, special guest of the event, said that despite facing many challenges during the pandemic, the garment industry is slowly trying to turn around. At this crisis, we realized that we need to enhance our capabilities for facing emergencies. The stimulus of the government should be reached everyone properly. In that case, we have to guarantee good governance.

“Particular attention should be paid to those who have lost their jobs or closed down their factories. Workers need to be trained and their health issues should be ensured. It is also necessary to ensure minimum wages for the workers. Besides discussion should be started regarding the COVID-19 vaccination for the workers,” she said.

BKMEA Vice President Mohammad Hatem, a distinguished guest, said that most of the RMG workers face difficulty in getting salaries through banking channels as they do not have enough documents.

Professor Mohammad Abdul Momen, Director, BGMEA, agreed with the CPD's proposal to pay salaries through banking channels and added that the process of getting loans should be made easier for small businesses.

AK Enamul Haque, Professor of Economics at East West University, said the study showed the overall situation in the RMG sector due to the pandemic.

Referring to the inadequacy of COVID-19 testing for the workers, Taslima Akhter, President of Bangladesh Garment Workers' Solidarity, said that the health risks of workers should be taken into consideration. Miran Ali, Director, Misami Garments and BGMEA was present on the occasion.

Professor Rehman Sobhan, Chairman, CPD, who presided over the event, said that the burden of risk in business is to be borne unilaterally by the producing country alone. So further research needs to be done on the losses and profits of the sector.

Mentioning the workers’ health risks as the major challenges in the pandemic, he proposed social security insurance for them, in which owners, workers, government, buyers and development partners would participate.

CEDA Adviser Professor Rahim B Talukdar delivered the concluding speech at the event.