What the papers say

Social Safety Net

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 3rd September 2020.

This Week in the Bangladesh English News…

…women in formal workplaces often face sexual harassment with no recourse. Remittances are soaring. And the launch of a pilot program using mobile phones to provide a social safety net.

Education and Labour Market

Junior School Certificate and Junior Dakhil Certificate exams will not be held this year. Meanwhile, Higher Secondary Certificate exams have been deferred since April, although new testing dates have not been announced.

Educational institutions will remain closed until 3rd October.

Technical and vocational courses scheduled to begin at general schools and madrasas will delay starting by one year. The courses are the result of a recent mandate that requires these technical training be introduced in grades nine and ten. The stated goal is to enroll 50 percent of students in technical education by 2050.

The Bangladesh Labour Act 2006 is not fully suited to address the needs of the current moment according to lawyer and advocate Dr. Uttam Kumar Das. Starting in March, the government declared a “general holiday” to curb the COVID-19 infection rate, but it’s unclear how does this affect terms of employment. Dr. Das argues some criteria in the act “leave room for misinterpretation and vagueness” and it is time to consider the present circumstances.

Urban to rural migration increased to 13 percent between April and June, said a new study by Power and Participation Research Centre (PPRC) and Brac Institute of Government and Development (BIGD). Migration from Dhaka was 15.6 percent. The executive chairman at PPRC, Hossain Zillyr Rahman, advised the government to give consideration to rural non-agricultural sectors in the form of stimulus packages and employment opportunities.

More than 41 percent of women in formal workplaces faced sexual harassment at least two or three times within recent months. Only 14 percent of women reported filing complaints with their employers, and 5 percent said they filed a complaint with law enforcement. The data comes from a survey conducted from March to June by the National Girl Child Advocacy Forum and Plan International Bangladesh.

Around 62 percent of the indigenous people of Bangladesh are now living below the poverty line according to a recent survey by Indigenous People’s Development Services and supported by Minority Rights Group Europe. The study also said some 500,000 have become the “new poor”, and the Garo population has been greatly affected.

Financial Services

Remittances continue to defy expectations, and in the month of August, migrant workers sent home some $500 million more than August last year according to Bangladesh Bank data. It’s the third month in which remittances have increased. Currently, senders receive a 2 percent cash incentive when transferring money through formal channels.

Some social safety net allowances will be distributed through mobile financial services. The disbursements will go to 13,845 elderly, disabled and widow beneficiaries as part of a pilot program by the Department of Social Services. The allowances will be transferred through one of four services: Nagad, bKash, Rocket or SureCash.

Banks should not give out new loans to avoid defaulted loans, urged the Bangladesh Bank. A central banker said some banks have allegedly settled their loans in this way.

Business, Investments, Trade and Growth

Bangladesh needs more data to monitor progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals according to the Sustainable Development Goal Progress Report 2020. The United Nations has designated 232 indicators, but in Bangladesh, there is no data for 63 indicators.

The Asian Development Bank said over the next three years, it will provide $5.9 billion to Bangladesh. This is projected to be about $400 million more than the money given between 2018 and 2020, and in 2021, some $500 million will be allocated to address the impacts of the pandemic. A breakdown of the plan is available here.

Bamboo artisans in Baghar village said with proper training, they could export their products and make much greater profits. Villagers said the pandemic has decreased local demand, which is worrisome as the craft is used by the majority of the 500 people in the village to make a living.

Farmers and Agriculture

Maize imports increased 54 percent during the last fiscal year, due to a decrease in domestic product. The increased demand for the import is a result of floods damaging the domestic crop used to feed animals.

Bangladesh Railway will acquire 125 railway luggage vans for transporting agriculture products like fish, milk and fruits. With the assistance of the Asian Development Bank, the luggage vans are being purchased with a Chinese joint-venture firm and will be supplied in 20 to 24 months.

Other News

Hindu widows have a right to their husband’s land, whether it is agricultural or non-agricultural, according to a new High Court. The ruling affirms a lower court ruling and a law from 1972.

In the Rohingya camps, 3G and 4G mobile data was restored. The services have been nonoperational for the last year.

COVID-19 Update: the total number of cases reached 317,528, and deaths now total 4,351.