What the papers say

The Loss of Livelihoods

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 2 July 2020.

This Week in the Bangladesh English News…

…Global brands have denied Bangladeshi garment suppliers billions since March. There’s widespread flooding in the north and northeast. And Bangladesh asks if it can graduate from a least developed country but keep one advantage of LDC status.

Education and the Labour Market

At least 1,931 global clothing brands have delayed, put on hold or canceled what amounts to $3.7 billion in orders since the start of the global pandemic according to the Daily Star’s review of data from the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association. BGMEA also said only ten brands have publicly committed to paying for completed and in-production orders.

PPE, or personal protective equipment, is one bright spot in the garment industry. To meed global demand, PPE companies have expanded production of face masks, surgical gowns and other equipment. However, PPE manufacturing is not an easy business to break into, as manufacturers that want to export to the US and EU need certifications from the relevant government agencies.

Civil-service candidates received long-awaited results, bringing the record-long, three-year process nearer to an end. In related news, the Public Service Commission said the the quota system, which fixed a percentage of jobs for specific groups, will not be used for future recruitment cycles.

The Education Ministry proposed five more public universities be established in districts where there are currently no such universities, and the proposal is awaiting comment from the University Grants Commission. There are currently 46 public universities in Bangladesh.

The University Grants Commission did comment that public universities should hold classes online. The UGC has repeatedly advocated for online classes in hopes of avoiding a jam of make-up classes when regular classes resume, however, public universities have said online classes are not practical because facilities are lacking and many students don’t have reliable internet access.

And these days, students aren’t studying as much. A study from the BRAC Institute of Governance and Development found an 80 percent decrease in the average number of study hours, from 10 hours to 2 hours. Additionally, only 16 percent of the 5,000 children interviewed said they are watching educational programs on television.

Financial Services

Non-governmental teachers that are not under the Monthly Pay Order program will get one-time payments from the central government. These teachers, many of whom have not received salary since March, will get Tk 5,000, and staffers at the schools will receive Tk 2,500. Schools in Bangladesh are scheduled to remain closed until 6 August.

Loan sharks are cashing in on the current crisis as some vulnerable people see no other option but to seek their high-interest loans. Daily Star reporters spoke with over a dozen people living in slums that took loans to survive, and many of them are worried about how they will repay their debts.

Small and medium enterprises have reportedly accessed only Tk 2 billion of the Tk 200 billion stimulus package for the SME sector which was announced 13 April. However, BRAC Bank is reporting some success: The head of SME at BRAC Bank said they have dispersed about 50 percent of the money the bank received for the SME sector.

Business, Investments, Trade and Growth

All 22 state-run jute factories will close, and [8,000 permanent and 30,000 temporary] workers will lose their jobs. Pushing for the revocation of this decision, workers protested and threatened hunger strikes. Claims of mismanagement by Bangladesh Jute Mills Corporation have existed for years — workers have gone unpaid and some retirees have not seen the benefits they were promised.

The Bangladesh Commerce Ministry made a request to the European Union for an extension of the zero duty benefit for Bangladesh exports, in part to ease the negative economic effects of the current situation. Under the current EU system, three years after Bangladesh graduates from LDC status — which is expected in 2024 — the country will lose EU duty benefits.

Farmers and Agriculture

Flooding in the north and north-eastern districts — caused by heavy rains and swelling rivers — has displaced many people and inundated croplands. In Sylhet and Sunamganj, over 300,000 people have been affected. In Rangpur, much of this year’s peanut harvest, an essential source of income for many char island dwellers, has been lost to the floods. In the far-north Sunamganj and Lalmonirhat subdistricts, some locals say sand extraction from rivers has eroded the river banks and caused more flooding.

Other News

COVID-19 Update: the latest numbers are 153,277 cases and 1,926 deaths according to the website of the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control, and Research.

The Related Healthcare Crisis: the Directorate General of Health Services reported 190 ICU beds in government hospitals are reserved for critical coronavirus patients, and the Daily Star reported many beds remain unfilled despite demand. In some rural areas, critical care is starkly lacking: Government hospitals in six divisions in the Chittagong District depend on 10 ICU beds at the one hospital. Ten divisions in the Khulna District have only 18 ICU beds, and many lack the necessary equipment for treatment of critical cases. In one division, six COVID-19 patients died one day, said the local civil surgeon, “three needed ICU support, but we could not provide them so.”