What the papers say

Women Face Constraints

A weekly round up of articles about employment, the labor market, skills training and workforce development. This week’s round up is drawn from The Daily Star. Here is the news for the week ending 28th July 2016.

This week in the Bangladesh English Press…

…we look at women’s economic opportunities, consider China’s shrinking workforce as an opportunity for Bangladesh, and discuss a few new ideas for agricultural. And the year end figures for remittances are in.

Women as Low Paid Artisans: Choice or Constraint?

We frequently hear of the declining fortunes of local artisans. From sari weavers in Dhaka to potters in Bogra, they all seem vulnerable to consumer trends.

The village of Bhakurta, just outside Dhaka, is a hub for jewellery making. This cottage industry supports about 2,500 families.

At one time they used to make gold jewellery and work in jewellery shops. But machines took over. First gold, then silver. Now the villagers make copper jewellery. And the returns are lower.

So women, mostly, work from home using time between domestic work. For example, a woman can earn about 400 Taka a day making copper thread.

It’s a good top up to a family’s income but is it a real choice?

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development discussed, “women as agents for economic change” in Nairobi last week.

There was a simple message: women must have equitable opportunities for employment. And as farmers or entrepreneurs they need access to productive assets to compete with men.

From Bangladesh a fellow of the Centre for Policy Dialogue suggested that women’s productivity and income would be increased if they moved from farming to other sectors.

China’s Shrinking Workforce is an Opportunity for Bangladesh

Official sources say that China’s workforce could shrink by 200 million by 2050. There are currently just over 900 million people of working age in China.

The one child policy has had a significant impact on demographics. And China must now make efficient use of a small number of workers.

Bangladesh is faced with a similar but far less chronic problem. In the short-term Bangladesh will probably take advantage of competitive labour costs to grow its share of the global garments business.

For example, Bangladesh currently has 23% of the EU market for denim products. And the local industry is expected to grow from $2 billion to $5 billion in a few years.

Five new denim factories came on line  in the last five years bringing to total number to 30 and expanding employment opportunities. 

More job opportunities will be created across two Economic Zones.

The Bashundara Special Economic Zone will be set up in Keraniganj about 15 miles outside Dhaka.

It will provide infrastructure for cement, liquified gas, and petrochemical industries. 

Forty four thousand jobs could be created.

Fresh Ideas in Farming

Most people think shrimp can only be raised in saltwater. But that’s not true.

A fish farmer in Nilphamari recently converted a 2 acre pond to farm shrimp in freshwater.

Within 10 months the farmer produced 300 kilogrammes of shrimps and sold them for 250,000 Taka (about $3,000).

The fisheries office had provided him 12,000 shrimp fries free of cost to promote freshwater shrimp farming.

A Mro farmer invested 100,000 Taka (about $1250) to set up a mango orchard on his 5 acres in Bandarbans. And he’s already earned 800,000 Taka ($10,000).

The Mro community in Bandarbans has traditionally practiced jhum cultivation.

Jhum cultivation is a form of rotational mixed cropping in hilly areas. The farmer cultivates a part of her land leaving the rest to natural vegetation and regeneration.

Before using a portion of her land the farmer has to cut back and burn the natural vegetation. Burning can return nutrients to the soil.

In recent years traditional jhum farming has given way to fruit orchards and other single crops.

Farmers receive support from the Department of Agricultural Extension. And according to the Department 4,500 hectares of hills in Bandarbans produce 75,000 tonnes of mangoes each year.

Two hundred women in Satkhira and Nilphamari now have new smart phones.

Oxfam is training the women to access information related to their economic activities such as farming.

Many rural women are already using phones for social purposes.

Year End Details on Remittances

Last week we reported on changes in the flow of remittances from the Middle East, UK and US. This week we see complete data for Financial Year 2016.

Remittances from the Middle East are down by about 5%. This could be because low oil prices have forced governments to scale back public spending.

This means fewer jobs in construction for Bangladesh labourers. Or it could simply be that Middle Eastern currencies have depreciated against the dollar.

There are about 7 million Bangladeshis working abroad. Over half are unskilled.