THE graduation of Bangladesh from the status of a least developed country is expected after the second triennial review set to take place in February. The graduation may be a welcome happening but might bring new challenges as well. Bangladesh, which will lose some benefits that it now enjoys after the upgrade in status, will be eligible to gain access to the Generalised System of Preference Plus scheme. Bangladesh has to, however, comply with a number of international standards related to labour laws and rights for the new entitlements. This appears to be a challenge because a proper enforcement of labour laws is still lamentable. The European Union earlier suggested nine areas in the labour sector to address which include an amendment to labour laws, the elimination of child labour, an increase in the rate of registration of trade unions, issues of harassment of and violence against workers and unfair labour practices. Experts and rights activists at a programme that the Centre for Policy Dialogue held on Wednesday rightly urged the government and relevant agencies and associations to ensure the strict implementation of labour laws and rights in this context.
The experts say that amendments to labour law provisions without strict enforcement will not help the sector in the long run. Bangladesh has to address and overcome a number of legislative, structural and administrative challenges first to be able to gain access to the European market under the GSP+ scheme because it requires Bangladesh to comply with 27 international conventions, 15 of which are related to rights and labour standards set by the International Labour Organisation. The government and relevant agencies should keep in mind that meeting the global standards will not only help the country to continue to receive benefits from export destinations, it will also contribute to the overall welfare of workers. The right to trade unionism, for example, is one such issue that should be addressed. Workers continue to be exploited in the absence of trade unions because it denies them a bargaining agent which is essential to maintain a functional relationship between the employees and the employers and to enable a workplace environment conducive to productivity. A holistic approach is what appears to be necessary to improve the condition of the labour sector keeping the expected graduation of Bangladesh from the status of a least developed country in mind. All trade associations also have an important role to play in this regard because it is their responsibility to ensure the enforcement of international standards of all labour rights issues.
The government must, therefore, step up to the plate and come up with a comprehensive strategy to address the challenges that lie ahead. The government and the agencies concerned must ensure a strict compliance with the international labour standards and hold to account any violators. Bangladesh will, otherwise, be upgraded on paper only, without gaining any benefits.
Want stories like this in your inbox?
Sign up to exclusive daily email
More Stories from Editorial