What the papers say

Bridges to Opportunities

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 16 July 2020.

This Week in the Bangladesh English News…

…when buyers default, exporters lose, but a new financial service will assume some of the risk. A study shows female garment workers are less likely to be independent, financially. And without tourism, how will Sylhet and Cox’s Bazar be affected?

Education and the Labour Market

More than 2,000 garment workers protested on Monday, after reporting to work and finding the factory where they are employed in Savar will extend its closure. The workers blocked the road, and demanded salaries and that the factory reopen. “[The authorities] informed us that workers’ salaries will be paid very soon,” said Kabir Hossain, vice president of the National Garment Workers’ Federation, “and the factory will be reopened by next Sunday.”

A reported 1,000 garment workers have lost their jobs according to the National Garment Workers’ Federation president Amirul Haque Amin, though he added that the number is probably much higher. Some organizations are reporting that work orders are returning, but there’s still a shortage of work.

Female workers in the garment sector are more likely to make financial decisions with input from other family members, and thus less likely to be financially independent according to a new study from the South Asian Network on Economic Modelling in partnership with Microfinance Opportunities.

Meetings to renegotiate minimum wages for some workers in low-paying jobs are on hold due to the Coronavirus. The Labour and Employment Ministry wants to set wages for workers in four sectors, including 150,000 workers in private jute mills and 140,000 workers in tea gardens, but some stakeholders are refusing to meet under the current conditions.

Bangladeshis with jobs in Italy cannot return: The government of Italy put restrictions on all flights and passengers from Bangladesh, effective 9 July until 5 October. The restrictions came after several Bangladeshis tested positive for COVID-19 after landing in Italy, despite carrying negative test results from Bangladesh. Japan, South Korea and China have also restricted flights from Bangladesh.

Financial Services

In nearly half of the 64 districts, officials have not complied with the central government’s order to upload information about the allocation and disbursement of relief and financial aid. The Disaster Management and Relief Ministry has asked deputy commissioners to publish this info on distract web portals to ensure transparency. Recently, they wanted info on the distribution of Covid-relief, including rice, financial aid and baby food.

Exporters often take on financial risk when they ship goods and await payment. But a new service aims to help exporters get paid as soon as they ship. The service, first available to garment and textile exporters, is offered by City Bank with the assistance of PrimaDollar, a global trade financier headquartered in the UK. PrimaDollar will pay exporters quickly and assume some of the risk of buyers defaulting.

Business, Investments, Trade and Growth

Tourism, which would typically be booming this time of year in Sylhet and Cox’s Bazar, is bust due to the pandemic. The Tour Operator Association of Bangladesh estimated the sector may lose over $700 million this year, and the Pacific Asia Travel Association said between January and June alone the loss was upwards of $1 billion. The losses are affecting hotels, restaurants, shops and transportation in Bangladesh’s most popular destinations.

Thousands of people in Taltoli formed human chains to demonstrate demand for a hospital in their district. Taltoli was declared a district in 2010, and since that time, no district health facilities have been established.

Farmers and Agriculture

How will Bangladesh celebrate the Eid-ul-Azha holiday during a pandemic? Authorities are taking new measures to supply sacrificial animals — cattle markets on the road are banned, but online platforms allow buyers to purchase animals while social distancing. One such platform is “Digital Haat”, an initiative from the Dhaka North City Corporation; the website is taking orders until 20 July and offers full service options including meat processing and home delivery.

Meanwhile, cattle farmers in the district Tangail reported offers are low, and they foresee difficulties as few wholesalers are coming to buy cattle this year.

The government approved the largest farm sector project yet: a five-year project that will subsidize agriculture machinery for farmers while also training some 9,000 mechanics and agriculture extension officials. A goal is to relieve a shortage of farm workers during the planting and harvesting times. This is the third project since 2009 to provide subsidies to farmers to buy machinery.

People on a remote char took a matter into their own hands: With donations and volunteers, they constructed a 200-metre long bamboo bridge. They had asked public representatives for a bridge across the Teesta for years, said a local farmer, but for now this bridge is suitable for carrying agricultural goods across the river.

Other News

COVID-19 Update: the latest numbers are 193,590 cases and 2,457 deaths according to the website of the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control, and Research.

Furthermore, a report from Dhaka University said some 1,667 people have died after showing Covid-like symptoms; these people are not included in the official count of deaths from the virus. Also this week, the daily number of COVID-19 tests declined over several days, but the positivity rate increased. On Sunday, 24 percent of people tested received positive results, the highest rate since testing started.