What the papers say

Minimum Wage Raise

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 18 January 2018.

This week in the Bangladesh English Press…

…we hear about the formation of a new government wage board. The board will set a new minimum wage for the garment workers. India becomes a major garment export market for Bangladesh. And Bangladesh is likely to graduate from the Least Developed Country (LDC) status soon.

Business, Investments, Trade and Growth

The country’s current account deficit reached a 15-year high in the first five months of the fiscal year. This is due to higher imports and average export growth. In the first five months, imports rose around 28 percent year-on-year, while exports grew around 8 percent. Trade deficit also widened by around 96 percent year-on-year to $8 billion.

Instant measures need to be taken to enhance export earnings so that both the trade deficit and the current account deficit can be narrowed down.

Berger Paints Bangladesh is set to go into a joint venture with the UK-based construction solutions provider Fosroc International to expand its business. The combined investment is worth 600 million Taka. Berger Paints Bangladesh will invest 300 million Taka and hold 50 percent share in the new entity, Berger Fosroc Ltd. Together they will develop a group of professionals by training them on the latest construction technologies.

The Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) recently approved 14 projects that involve 185 billion Taka investments. The big projects are: Development of Selected Non-Government Secondary Schools Project, Emergency 2007 Cyclone Recovery and Restoration Project (ECRRP), Construction of Flood Shelter Centres at Flood and River Erosion-prone Area (3rd phase) and Greater Chittagong Rural Infrastructure Development Project-3.

India is becoming a major garment export market for Bangladesh. Garment exports to India increased by around 66 percent in the first six months of the fiscal year and fetched around $111 million, according to data from the Export Promotion Bureau. This is due to demands from Western brands operating in India, and closure of some small- and medium-scale factories in the country. Bangladesh, on the other hand, is likely to lose around $3 billion in export earnings as it is expected to graduate from the Least Developed Country (LDC) status by the Committee for Development Policy (CDP) this year as it meets all three criteria: Gross National Income (GNI) per capita, Human Assets Index (HAI) and Economic Vulnerability Index (EVI).

When Bangladesh graduates from least developed status exports will be subject to a 7 percent additional tariff. Quota-free benefits from different countries and trading partners will be withdrawn. The country might also lose out on foreign aid. But even though some benefits will be lost, new opportunities will be opened.

Education and the Labour Market

One hundred and twenty seven female domestic migrant workers returned to their homes in Bangladesh after being cheated, abused and tortured in Saudi Arabia. In the year 2013, the number of female Bangladeshi workers going abroad was less compared to the year 2017. However, there is no data on how many of them returned. Female workers go abroad mostly for domestic work.

A recently formed government wage board will recommend a minimum salary scale for around 4 million garment workers. The decision was made after hearing the workers’ demand. Workers demanded the minimum wage to be set at $200 as rising price  of rice and house rent has increased their living costs. The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) sent a proposal to form the wage board to the labour ministry in August last year.

And that’s the news for the week ending 18 January 2018.