What the papers say

The Hazards of Work

A weekly round up of articles about employment, the labour 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 12th October  2017.

This week in the Bangladesh English Press…

Workers remain vulnerable to discrimination.

Small farmers, migrant labourers, women and child workers are the most challenged by poor labour practices and unfair market conditions.

Small farmers continue to face discrimination in the agriculture sector. And Bangladeshi migrant workers face harsh situations abroad. Women suffer violence and inequality at work. Unfortunately, child labour remains widespread.

Recruitment policy is not always fair in either public or private sector jobs.

Dilemma of Small Farmers

The supply of milk is not meeting its growing demand. Nine different government projects will increase milk yields and boost the dairy industry.

The projects are: mobile veterinary clinics and mini laboratories; improving regional research centers on livestock diseases; livestock breeding centers; livestock development in coastal islands; upgrading milk farms; and reproductive disease control.

The artificial breeding program expansion and implementation has already begun. The breeding points will soon be set up in all unions.

Small farmers have less access to credit compared to big farmers. But small farms give higher yields. And food security is critical in a country where 30 percent of children suffer from vitamin A deficiency and  44 percent of women are anaemic.  So more credit needs to go to small farmers.

Sunamganj famers suffered after the recent flood damaged their Boro crops. But, this led to increased production of jute. Jute has become the main source of farmers’ income. There is a high demand for jute products in the market. A further increase in demand for jute will be seen if the government bans polythene bags.

Local indigenous people say that Jhum cultivation is a traditional method of farming. They claim it does not harm the environment. A new method of farming, ‘hill cultivation’ is what affects the environment. ‘Hill cultivation’ is practiced by non-indigenous people.

Matiranga, Guimara, Ramgarh and Ma are the places where ‘hill cultivation’ takes place. Indigenous people are against this form of cultivation. It involves extensive use of fertilizers and pesticides. And the land is damaged because it is ploughed twice during planting and harvesting.

Women Rights

Sreepur police stopped the early marriage of two schoolgirls. The police was informed by marriage-buster and President Sahida Akhter Sorna of “Sreepur Youth Forum” of Plan Bangladesh. The police counselled the parents and made them promise not to marry off their daughters so early.

Measuring discrimination against girls is difficult due to a lack of accurate demographic data. Demographic information on young girls is not recorded properly by public health sectors or family planning services. Young girls are not registered as adolescents due to early marriage and early motherhood. Government and organizations should invest in education for girls  and ensure that they are not marginalized or deprived.

Exploitation of Migrant Workers

Bangladeshi workers are being deceived by human traffickers. Recently, a Bangladeshi was rescued from Libya. Following a police investigation the traffickers were caught. The traffickers operated from Dhaka and Kishoreganj.

Workers are held hostage by these traffickers in Libya. They are tortured for ransom. Even after their families pay the ransom, the hostages are not released. They are sold on two to three times. The syndicate is said to be run by nationals of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Libya. 

Bangladeshi migrant workers are being exploited in the tourist paradise Maldives. Maldives has a large migrant workforce from Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka. The workers are mostly unskilled.

They face a number of problems such low wage of just 100-150 dollars a month. They work more than  14 hours a day.  Working conditions in the construction industry and the service sector are unsafe.

Murders and stabbings of migrant workers have become very common. Many migrant workers live in fear. Protests are silenced by threats of deportation. Outstanding debts to brokers and fear of punishment prevent workers from leaving Maldives.

Maldives was placed on the Tier 2 Watch List for human trafficking by the US Department of State in 2008. In 2013, it escaped relegation to Tier 3 Watch List.

Modern-day Slavery

Sadly slavery is present in Bangladesh. It is seen in the manufacturing of garments, shrimp and dry fish production, commercial sexual exploitation, child marriage and drug production.

Its eradication is challenging. It takes place in a hidden economy of private homes and businesses. And there is little prosecution. The Bangladesh Labor Act 2006 prohibits the employment of children under 14, but child labour is still widespread.

Child labor in Bangladesh is a serious problem. A survey by the  Ministry of Planning  examines the ongoing practice of child labor. There are child labour laws and penalties for lawbreakers. But 81 percent of children are still engaged in vulnerable working conditions. Sixty percent of children work during daytime while 40 percent children work during daytime and nighttime.

Public Sector Recruitment

Quotas and viva voce hinder fair recruitment in the public services.  Quotas account for more than 50 percent of public sector jobs. So recruitment is not fully competitive. The percentage of quota needs to be reduced. Job seekers should be given a fair chance in all public service areas.

There could be a gradual elimination of quota-based recruitment and eventually quotas for women will be unnecessary.

Viva voce as part of recruitment can lead to corruption. It should not be mandatory. The public sector needs to ensure a fair recruitment policy and set an example for the private sector.

Doing Business in Bangladesh

The Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA) will appoint half of its workforce from the private sector. BIDA wants to become more business-friendly.

The announcement was made in a meeting organized by Canada-Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CanCham). Chamber leaders, senior government officials, business people, exporters, manufacturers, importers and entrepreneurs were present.

Investing in Bangladesh is not easy. Challenges include expensive power; infrastructure bottlenecks; traffic congestion; inefficient ports and airports; shortage of skilled workers; and much-needed regulatory reforms.

The New VAT Law

National Board of Revenue will study the impact of the new VAT law on trade and industrial sectors once it comes into effect.

The new law was to be implemented from July 2016. But was deferred to July 2019 following opposition from businesses.

Business owners and economists want an independent study.  The Executive Director of the Policy Research Institute of Bangladesh said that stakeholders must be consulted. If not, the NBR will again face resistance from businesses.

And that’s the news for the week ending 12th October, 2017.