Experts at a dialogue on Tuesday said that the government would have to improve the labour standard and implement labour laws to attain the sustainable development goals by 2030 as well as to get the GSP Plus benefit in the European market after the Bangladesh’s graduation from the least developed country to a middle income one.
Bangladesh has qualified in all the three criteria for the graduation and the country’s labour standard should be improved in line with the graduation, they said at the dialogue on emerging labour standard demands in view of Bangladesh’s LDC graduation and SDG implementation.
The Centre for Policy Dialogue organised the programme at the Khazana Gardenia Banquet Hall in Dhaka.
‘GSP Plus conditionality is binding commitments for a beneficiary country, while SDG targets, in contrast, are voluntary in nature. The implementation of GSP Plus conditionality needs to take rights-based approach while the implementation of SDG targets needs to take more commercial approach,’ CPD research director Khondaker Golam Moazzem said while presenting the keynote paper at the event.
He said that a well-coordinated approach could be undertaken to address the emerging labour standard under the SDG framework and the implementation of SDG-linked ELS approach could better prepare Bangladesh to handle the post-LDC challenges.
Moazzem said that additional resources worth $68 billion would be needed for the implementation of SDG 8.
He suggested that the government should initiate informal discussions with stakeholders about ratification of International Labour Organisation convention 138 as all 27 ILO conventions should have been ratified for getting GSP Plus.
CPD distinguished fellow Debapriya Bhattacharya said SDG is a global issue and Bangladesh would have to try to internalise the global agenda in the country’s context.
‘It is very clear that, this is the era of rising protectionism; it is the era of unilateral trade measures; it is the era where the multi-lateral rules are being flouted; it is the era when the WTO (World Trade Organisation) is paralysed. So, what is happening we will see --- on the one hand the bilateral and at the same time some regional standards will become more important than the multi-lateral issues,’ he said.
Debapriya said the coordination within the government is very critical as there are a number of critical ministries here.
‘SDG implementing agencies and stakeholders in Bangladesh are hardly aware about emerging labour standard issues. So, raising awareness and effective coordination are a must to address this if to achieve the global agenda by 2030,’ he said.
Syed Sultan Uddin Ahmmed, executive director of Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies, said, ‘We need to consider and concern that we need to break our limit of our discussion and consideration only within the one sector or only within the international pressure and compliance.’
It is clearly mentioned in the labour law to pay the employees living wages, not the minimum wages but the government has no plan on living wages, he said.
Sultan said that it should adopt real perception and interpretation regarding forced labour and everyone should be incorporated in the policymaking so that they could do their job with full dignity.
Gagan Rajbhandary, officer in charge of the ILO, said although the SDG 8 in particular is fundamental to the achievement of economic growth and social inclusion, all of the SDGs are linked to a degree with the workplace and employment.
‘Meeting the SDGs would transform countless lives and I must praise Bangladesh for its proactive and inclusive approach to meeting these goals,’ he said.
Gagan said that graduation would of course bring with it new challenges as it was the potential erosion of trade preferences.
‘To gain the EU’s GSP Plus benefit Bangladesh will need to have ratified and show compliance with 27 conventions. Amongst these is ILO’s Convention No 138 concerning minimum age for admission to employment,’ he said.
State minister for labour Md Mujibul Haque said, ‘Bangladesh has become a proud global partner of equality of rights of people in all sphere of life through signing major international conventions and agreements of human rights, labour rights, gender rights and equality issues.’
‘Except the ILO convention 138, Bangladesh has ratified all GSP Plus conventions. Since it is one of the pre-condition to be eligible for the GSP Plus beneficiary, we will initiate discussion with stakeholders concerned regarding the possibility of ratification of this convention as well,’ he said.
Mujibul said that complying with international standards in full in all categories of factories would take time as establishing a harmonised labour practices to all factories would not be possible unless owners take initiative in this regard.
Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association president Md Siddiqur Rahman said two separate buyers’ platforms have been monitoring the workplace safely in the country’s readymade garment factories for last five years and now Bangladeshi entrepreneurs are becoming capable to monitor their factory and business.
‘We will get GSP facility in the EU market for next 10 years so nothing to be worry. We will achieve the required standard within the time,’ he said.
CPD distinguished fellow Mustafizur Rahman moderated the dialogue while its executive director Fahmida Khatun delivered introductory speech.
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