Research Report by Labour at Infomal Economy, Bangladesh
This action research was conducted between 2014 and 2015 to examine the working and living conditions of a broad spectrum of women workers in Bangladesh, and to make recommendations as to how their conditions can be improved through capacity building, organising and advocacy, while taking into consideration their specific concerns. In addition to garment workers, informal workers such as waste pickers, street vendors, domestic workers and tea plantation workers were included.
The research found that women in Bangladesh are driven to work because of intense poverty. The majority of the women workers are in the informal sector because they find it difficult to get jobs in the formal sector. They are concentrated in types of work that require low skill but long hours of work. In the construction sector, for instance, women workers take up soil-digging, moving bricks, and mixing sand and bricks. Compared to their male counterparts, women workers receive lower wages, lack opportunities for skills development, and are discriminated in recruitment or promotions.
Women workers in Bangladesh are mostly not organised. Challenges to organising or joining organisations include lack of awareness on the activities of trade unions or workers’ organisations, mobility of work, and flexible work arrangements, as well as societal disapproval to women participating in these organisations. Women workers who are members of organisations shared that leadership is dominated by men and, in some cases, do not even come from the sector that they represent.
The researchers conclude by providing a set of specific recommendations towards the unions and workers' organisations, the government, and employers to ensure decent work and living conditions to women workers, and respect for their rights.
Photo by Ziaul Haque