The ratio of female workers to male in the country’s readymade garments sector has decreased as the number of new entry of female workers was lagging behind their male counterpart because of automation, according to a survey conducted by the Centre for Policy Dialogue, which was released on Saturday.
The ratio of female workers to their male workers now stood at 60.80 per cent against 65 per cent (as per a study conducted in 2015) as the introduction of new technologies and machineries squeezed the opportunity for the female due to lack of technical knowledge, Khondoker Golam Moazzem, research director of the CPD told New Age after presenting the findings of survey at a programme at Khazana Gardenia Hall in the city.
A survey, conducted by the Asian Centre for Development in 2015, found 65 per cent female workers in Bangladesh’s readymade garment sector, against the RMG owners’ claim of more than 80 per cent female workers working in this sector.
Moazzem said that total number of female workers has not decreased in the sector but their percentage has been decreased as the employment of male workers increased.
According to the survey, the ratio of male workers increased to 39.20 per cent in the RMG sector.
The CPD organised a dialogue on ‘Ongoing Upgradation in RMG sector Enterprise: Results from a Survey’, which was moderated by its distinguished fellow Debapriya Bhattacharya.
CPD made the report based on the survey in 252 garment factories with 2,123 workers.
According to the survey, the employment growth in the sample organisation declined to 3.3 per cent in 2012-2016 although according to BBS, the average national growth of garments sector jobs was 4.01 per cent.
Moazzem told New Age that the sample survey on job growth was still a preliminary work and they would work further on the issue.
Regarding the female workforce, Moazzem showed that although the ratio of female workers has declined in the RMG sector, the sewing and finishing departments of the sector were still female worker-driven with the highest, 74.90 per cent female, working at sewing sector while the percentage was 58.60 in finishing section.
Without the enterprises in Export Processing Zones, the study prepared a data universal of some 3,596 garment factories with 35.04 million workers.
In the survey, Moazzem showed that female workers were less interested to work in some of the departments of garment factories including cutting section.
‘It is encouraging for the sector that a large portion of RMG enterprises were established during 2013-2016, following the Rana Plaza building collapse,’ he said.
The study found an uneven development in the sector as the social up-gradation scored 60.9 which were a bit higher than the economic up gradation.
Moazzem said that garment factories made significant progress in social upgrading due to the global pressure after Rana Plaza building collapse but the overall score of economic upgradation was lower than social upgradation due to poor score in process upgradation, product upgradation and functunal upgradation.
According to the study, the board of directors of 89 per cent of garment factories are mostly family based and owners are still playing major role in price negotiation with buyers.
Managerial posts in the RMG sector are still male dominated and 50 per cent managers have post graduate degrees but the disciplines of graduation have little relevance with management and operation of industrial enterprises, the study read.
The survey found considerable percentage of foreign professionals in different section of sample enterprises due to lack of adequate skill and quality of domestic professionals.
CPD found that about 16 per cent of sample enterprises employed foreign staff members working in mostly production planning, merchandising, quality assurance and washing sections.
The study found lower gender-wage gap in the RMG sector showing workers monthly wages on an average at around Tk 7,270 for male workers and Tk 7,058 for female workers.
It also found huge disparity in the number of trade unions and workers participation committees in the RMG sector.
WPC have been formed in 91 per cent of factories while only the trade unions exist in only 3.3 per cent factories, the survey found.
CPD chairman Professor Rehman Sobhan said that trade unions in the readymade garments sector were divided in several small groups under 70 federations but they have to bargain jointly.
‘Factory owners are not divided. BGMEA is only one association of owners to bargain,’ he said.
Sobhan, however, suggested RMG factory owners to adopt 21st century’s business module instead of 19th century.
‘You always work on 19th century model but this is 21st century. With the old model you will be a part of global supply chain but not a partner of the supply chain,’ he said.
Sobhan suggested entrepreneurs should invest on their workers and make them shareholders of business.
Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association president Md Siddiqur Rahman proposed for sectoral trade union in the RMG sector.
Regarding workers wages, he said minimum wage board would finalise a wage for the workers considering workers needs and sector’s strengths.
Babul Akter, former secretary general of IndustriALL Bangladesh Council, said that real trade unions were not being formed in the RMG sector due to various reasons.
He said that trade unions were still not allowed in large enterprises in the RMG sector although labour law allow unions in all type of establishment.
Demanding Tk 16,000 as minimum wage for the workers, Babul said that the government should consider the social safety issue of workers.