What the papers say

Missing 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 30 July 2020.

This Week in the Bangladesh English News…

…Experts noted a lack of data on Covid among garment workers and people living in slums. The government offered another round of stimulus loans to the garment industry. And local NGOs in Cox’s Bazaar jointly said they’ve been marginalized by international organizations.

Education and Labour Market

How many ready-made garment workers have been infected with COVID-19? “What we do know is that 12 lakh people have been tested and 2 lakh tested positive,” said Population Council Bangladesh Country Director Ubaidur Rub in a virtual discussion about healthcare for RMG workers. Additional representatives from NGO, industry and government bodies also voiced concerns and solutions about related issues, including on-site healthcare facilities, vaccinations and reproductive health services.

About 18 percent of the population, both urban and rural, reported they do not follow any news media according to a national survey. The survey, done by a Dhaka University professor and ResInt Bangladesh, also measured trust in news media: 12.6 percent of people said it is a waste of time or untrustworthy.

The government announced school closures will continue until 31 August.

If primary schools reopen in September, they may implement a shortened syllabus. The Directorate of Primary Education and Academy of Primary Education are preparing a shortened primary school syllabus, although a top state minister said a reopening date has not been scheduled.

Summer enrollment at private universities, a portion of the education sector that is uniquely and widely operating online classes, has declined between 50 to 80 percent. Eastern University, for example, reported they only enrolled 100 of the usual 500 new students.

Parents of students at English medium schools organized; this week they launched the Bangladesh English School Parents Association and made a number of demands, including a freeze on tuition and session fees for three years.

To make students attractive candidates for jobs in the life insurance sector, National University, in partnership with Bangladesh Insurance Academy and Access to Information, is offering an online life insurance course.

Financial Services

To encourage loans to micro and small enterprises, the Bangladesh Bank unveiled a credit scheme to protect banks from some losses.

The government revealed a third stimulus package for the export-oriented industries, which includes the garment industry. The Tk 3,000 crore package is aimed at helping the industries pay July’s wages and salaries to workers. Borrowers will pay 4.5 percent interest and have two years with a six-month grace period to pay off the loans.

A United Nations body advocated for temporary basic income for the world’s poorest 3 billion people. In Bangladesh, the report titled “Temporary Basic Income: Protecting Poor and Vulnerable People in Developing Countries” estimated payments of $25 or Tk 2,100 should be made to over 65 million people every month to slow the spread of the pandemic while ensuring basic needs.

Local and national NGOs operating in Cox’s Bazar criticised the UN and other aid agencies for failing to localize more of the Rohingya response. They stated local NGOs did not receive any of the Covid emergency response funds and the higher bodies have imposed barriers to funding that systematically disadvantage local NGOs.

Manusher Jonno Foundation said a large number of people from marginalized communities did not receive any Covid-19 related aid from April to June, and the MJF executive director said, “Women are the worst sufferers of this crisis.”

Business, Investments, Trade and Growth

Bangladesh’s graduation from least developed countries status may be postponed; a United Nations body was scheduled to evaluate Bangladesh’s LDC status in 2021, however, the Daily Star reported the reconsideration could be pushed back three to five years.

Farmers and Agriculture

Some women cattle farmers are selling cattle online, and in the process, are cutting out male middlemen and making more money according to ActionAid Bangladesh. ActionAid Bangladesh partnered with the online retail platform Daraz to facilitate the sales.

Prime Minsiter Sheikh Hasina said “coronavirus is pushing us back” but the agriculture sector must be kept up so people don’t suffer from food shortage. The PM further said the government has been providing assistance and highlighted specific measures, including bank accounts for farmers and a reduction in the price of fertilizer.

Other News

Flooding continued this week. About 37 percent of the country has been flooded according to a BUET professor. UNICEF said some 2.4 million people are affected by the floods. And following another episode of serious waterlogging in Dhaka, Transparency International Bangladesh called on the government to reassign management of the drainage systems in the capital: Cut out the Sewage Authority (Wasa) and give the two Dhaka city corporations full responsibility for the system, they said.

Covid-19 Update: the total number of cases reached 232,000, and deaths now total more than 3,000. Also in the news this week:

Image from BMW Guggenheim Lab.