Thursday 23, March 2023

RMG rank jobs few and far between for women

Opportunities for female workers in readymade garment factories to move to managerial positions are very limited in Bangladesh despite the employment of a huge number of women in the sector.

Opportunities for female workers in readymade garment factories to move to managerial positions are very limited in Bangladesh despite the employment of a huge number of women in the sector.

Local labour rights advocates, policymakers and employers said that female workers in the RMG sector were not getting breaks to advance their careers due to gender-based discrimination, lack of education and communication skills and security problems.

Different international and national studies showed that nearly four million workers were working in the Bangladesh RMG sector and more than 62 per cent of the employment was women.

Though the women workers have significantly contributed to the development of the RMG sector and the growth of Bangladesh’s economy in recent decades, still men hold 95 per cent of line supervisor positions.

A study, jointly conducted by International Labour Organisation and UN Women in 2019, said that there was no improvement in enhancing women’s representation in managerial and leadership positions in the RMG sector in the past decade.

Most female workers in the RMG sector are employed in the production section which featured seven salary grades.

The majority of women workers (83.8 per cent) are employed in grades 4 to 7 compared to 67.7 per cent of men workers, an ILO report in 2018 said.

Only 0.8 per cent of women are in grade 1 and 1.0 per cent in grade 2 compared to 1.6 and 2.0 per cent of men respectively, it showed.

‘A change in mindset is an important thing for ensuring women’s representation in managerial and leadership positions in the RMG sector,’ Shirin Akhter, president of Bangladesh Jatiyo Sramik Jote, told us.

She said that factory authorities believed output from men would be higher than a woman’s.

The factory authorities should change their mindset and ensure equal opportunity for female garment workers concerning promotion within the factories, Shirin Akhter, who is also a lawmaker, said.

She said that reform in existing laws could help the situation improve and regular monitoring by the government authorities could also reduce gender-based discrimination in the RMG sector.

Shirin also said that Bangladesh’s female labour force lags behind in getting education due to social reasons but employers should take initiative for the development of workers’ skills.

Moreover, female workers should also be united to realise their demand of ensuring equal opportunity for promotion, she added.

A joint study conducted by the ILO and International Finance Corporation on the Bangladesh RMG sector in 2018 said that although women made up the majority of the workforce in the sector, they were mainly employed in low-paid and low-skill jobs.

‘Men occupy the majority of the supervisory and management positions, whereas opportunities for women to advance their careers are limited. Although the sewing line is dominated by women, accounting for four out of every five production line workers, less than one in 20 line supervisors are women,’ the report found. It also showed that women get less time for training than men and that there was no concrete factory management plan to upgrade women collectively.

In addition to lack of training opportunities, women faced further barriers in entering leadership positions, in particular connected to entrenched ideas about gender roles, the study said.

Nazma Akhter, president of Bangladesh Sammilita Garment Shramik Federation said that female workers were getting less scope to join skill development training as factory authorities prefer men for the managerial posts.

‘It is true, female garment workers do not have proper education but it is the responsibility of the government and employer to train them (female workers) and ensure an environment conducive for a woman to work in the factory at night,’ she said.

Nazma said that in some cases, female workers expressed unwillingness to become a manager as they would not get overtime compensation for additional work.

Sometimes they face security problems while working and returning home at night, she said. No doubt, the RMG sector empowered women and at the same time low wages of the sector developed a population with malnutrition, she added.

Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association executive president Mohammad Hatem, however, said that female workers often do now show confidence to become managers or supervisors in the factory due to lack of education.

Despite having an educational background, some of the female workers refuse to take responsibility as they do not want to face any hassle, he said.

Hatem also said that the mindset for both females and males should be changed and female workers must develop their skills to take the new challenges.

‘We, the factory owners, are always against gender discrimination,’ he added.

Adverse gender norms and stereotypes are root causes of women’s under-representation in supervisory and leadership positions in the sector, the ILO report said.

According to the ILO and UN Women enterprise-level survey, 89 per cent of women and 87 per cent of men surveyed feel that men can work fast, while 80 per cent of women and men feel that men’s output is greater than that of women.

More than 73 per cent of women and 63 per cent of men said that men can work better than women at night.

Bangladesh still accounts for the lowest wages among RMG producing countries and women and men workers are not paid equally for the same work, the report said.


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