Investigation: Garment workers concerned about safety amid Covid-19

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Some 84% of participants responded that they were concerned about the state of Covid-19 in Bangladesh

Some 84% of the country’s textile workers were concerned about the Covid-19 pandemic in the first week of last month when they were called back to work under a strict national lockdown with the virus still in rise.

This was revealed in a recent survey conducted jointly by the South Asian Network on Economic Modeling (SANEM) and Microfinance Opportunities (MFO) as part of a project called “Garment Worker Diaries” to collect data on working conditions, income, expenditure, food security, wages. digitization and the health of garment workers in Bangladesh.

The report mentions that during the first week of August, garment workers were called back to work amid the unexpected easing of the national lockdown.

On August 6, garment workers were asked what they believed to be called back to work while the lockdown was still in place.

Some 84% of participants responded that they were concerned about the state of Covid-19 in Bangladesh.

In the first week after being called back to work, the number of workers present was slightly less than they usually are, according to the survey.

On August 6, 83% of respondents replied that they had gone to work the previous week.

A slightly lower proportion of women than men worked, 81% versus 89% respectively.


Also Read – OP-ED: What Happens to RMG Workers?


The main objective of this project is to assist in the development of informed policies and branding initiatives, with regular and credible data collection and analysis, which can have a positive impact on the lives of workers in the clothing of the country.

As part of the project, Sanem and MFO have been collecting monthly data since April 2020 on textile workers employed in factories in the five main industrial zones of Bangladesh (Chittagong, Dhaka City, Gazipur, Narayanganj and Savar).

The data used for the analysis presented in the recent survey comes from telephone interviews conducted on August 6, 2021 with a pool of 1,278 workers.

Among active respondents, just over three-quarters are women, which is roughly representative of workers in the sector as a whole.

The investigation focused on the effects of the foreclosure on garment workers and their feelings about their current state of safety at work and the prospect of higher or lower pay on their next paychecks.

Of those 83% of respondents who had worked during survey week, only 44% said they were comfortable going to work during the national lockdown.

Of those same active respondents, unfortunately, only 45% received a mask to wear while working.

On a more positive note, 77% of those surveyed who work told us that they were able to distance themselves socially while working in the factory.

When asked about measures beyond mask wearing and social distancing, only 47% of respondents said their factory had taken additional measures to prevent Covid-19 infections.

Of these 47% of respondents, 83% felt that the additional measures taken were adequate. Although the responses of men and women were very similar in almost all of the questions, they differed on this question.


Also Read – Study: Clothing workers have little information on Covid-19 vaccine


About 87% of women workers believe the measures are sufficient, compared to 71% of men.

When asked how much money they expected to receive on their next paycheck, 63% of respondents thought they would be paid in much the same way.

Nineteen percent did not know how much they would be paid, while 16% said they expected to earn less than normal.

A percentage of workers expect to earn more than normal, almost entirely due to working more overtime.

Of the 16% of workers who expected to earn less, 75% said the lower pay would be linked to the foreclosure. When asked how they plan to cope with less money, the most common response with 18% identifying this option was to reduce food expenses.

Among the others, 18% would get by with less pay by managing with another type of coping strategy, 16% would reduce their other expenses, 13% would depend on transfers from the family outside the household, 12% would depend on transfers from friends outside the household, 11% said other family members in the household would bear more of the expenses, 9% said they would draw on their savings, four percent would depend on transfers from other members household and 1% said they would pay their rent late.

The data indicates that workers do not feel safe in their work environment and that factory owners have not done enough to make them feel less concerned.

Workers go to work uncertain of their future economic security.

In this situation, the competent authorities must take adequate measures to ensure the safety of their workers and address the concerns of their employees.

To facilitate the process of recovery of the RMG sector, export, and the economy as a whole, it is important that factory owners, government officials, policy makers and advocacy groups come together to provide leadership. priority to the safety and well-being of workers, according to the survey. .


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