Effects of the Covid-19 on RMG Workers in Bangladesh
Faysal Dewan & Showeb Khan1
B.Sc. in Textile Engineering
Department of Textile Engineering
BGMEA University of Fashion &Technology (BUFT)
The garments sector popularly known as the Ready-made Garments (RMG) is the largest industrial sector in Bangladesh which contributes most in GDP, foreign exchange, employment generation etc. It generally creates generation of about 4.4 million people where mostly are women which are from the disadvantaged part of the society most. This sector is the second largest RMG exporters next to China (Hossain, 2019). COVID-19 has formed a serious threat to global public health in both developing and developed countries. Bangladesh is at great risk from this public health emergency due to its lack of readiness to manage this deadly virus (Leatherier et al., 2020). As the garment’s factory is a place where people have to work in very short place, it has the huge chance to spread corona virus. For that reason, most of the garments are shut down, so production has stopped for a longer time.
Result & Discussion:
1. Job Loss Effects:
98% of the garment factories are situation in four districts: Dhaka (38 per cent), Gazipur (28.9 per cent), Chittagong (16.1 per cent) and Narayanganj (14.7 per cent). Currently, the garment worker population of Bangladesh is 3.5 million of which 60.8% are female and 39.2% are male. However, when it comes to managerial positions, the women are still lagging behind in managerial positions with only 0.5% managers and 9.3% of HR managers being women (LightCastle Analytics Wing, 2020). The Covid-19 pandemic has triggered huge job losses, especially for women, in the ready-made garment (RMG) sector in Bangladesh exposing the sector’s sensitivities by unstable global supply chains and leading to a collapse in demand. Recent surveys indicate that more than a million garment workers in Bangladesh have already been lost their job due to future order cancellations and customer refusals to pay for current orders. Of them, 72.44% of the furloughed workers have no income while 80.40% of the workers have been paid no severance (The Financial Express, 2020).
2. Food and health effects:
The consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic for these RMG workers is dire and include uncertainty about whether they will be entitled to wages during the COVID-19 pandemic and related issues such as lack of money for essentials such as food, and concerns about the re-opening of factories during COVID-19 infection peak times. Other concerns are the health risks due to lack of preventative measures in the workplace, and the development of mental health conditions due to the impact of the loss of employment and the fear of contracting COVID-19 (Humayun et al., 2020). RMG workers returning to the workplace fear infection with COVID-19 because of the increasing amount of new infections and the number of deaths that have been reported in the national electronic and print media. Perceiving the virus as severe has also impacted the mental health status of the general public and the individuals who are working during this pandemic. Fear of becoming infected with or dying due to the COVID-19 pandemic has the potential to impact mental health, and the RMG workers are no exception. It is also worth noting that RMG workers mental health is also affected by the tensions about their future in this sector (The Daily Star, 2020)
3. Financial effects:
Parents working in a garment factory located in Gazipur (near Dhaka) had to sell their newborn baby, as they could not pay the hospital bill of BDT 25 000 ($295). The father of the new born baby said that they could not manage hospital bills as the garment factory, where both husband and wife used to work, was closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the local police rescued the baby and returned it to their parents. (The Daily ProthomAlo, 2020). It is just one example of the terrible toll COVID-19 has had on the readymade garment (RMG) industry workers in Bangladesh.
4. Social and others effects:
During the ongoing infection (while COVID-19-related infections and death rates are increasing), the BGMEA suddenly declared that garment factories would be re-opening from 26 April 2020 with the permission of the government so that shipments of previously ordered clothing items could be completed. RMG workers were reportedly contacted by the management of the factories and told if they do not return to work they would lose their jobs as well as any salary due. The return to work was made more difficult as public transport was not available and no alternative transportation was provided to bring them from their home villages, often in rural areas, to the factory location during the lockdown. Therefore, workers had to arrange their own means of travel to return to work, and these arrangements included using crowded trucks and small vehicles making them more vulnerable to infection transmission (Fair Wear, 2020). Unexpected outcomes, such as reported rapes and suicide cases during the COVID-19 pandemic period, may impact female RMG workers’ mental health status into the future. For example, one rape case and one suicide death by a female RMG worker has been reported in the national daily newspapers during the COVID-19 pandemic period, which would definitely increase anxiety and fear for safety among the female RMG workers (The Daily Star, 2020).
1. We think the contribution of the Garment Industry has been more in providing employment to millions of Bangladeshis than earning foreign currency. Thus, a decline in this industry will hit them the most. So in this critical situation I think the following suggestions can be considered to help this industry survive.
2. We recommend that Government Stimuluses packages which would assist the garment factories should be utilized to ensure that the garment workers can get their fair share. However, the eligibility of these stimuluses should be contingent on the manufacturers not laying off workers.
3. We recommend that when it is safe for the garment workers to return to work with proper precautions, the buyers should be given diplomatic pressure to buy their complete order. If necessary, a reduced price could be negotiated to ensure that the costs of production and the wages of the workers can be given.
4. We think long term plans must be made to ensure this industry sustains. China is losing its market share and those are mostly being taken by countries with more efficient manufacturing. The Bangladeshi industries should also concentrate on their efficiency instead of relying on low-cost workers.
5. We recommend that, some regulations should be made to ensure the garment factory owners cannot replace the older and more experienced workers with younger and less costly workers. This shall compel the garment owners to train their workers to be more skillful and valuable for them in the future. However, in such cases, the workers must also give commitments that they will not leave their workplace after it has invested in them without proper reason.
6. We think despite these, there is a possibility that a portion of the garment industry might not survive. The employees in those factories should be given proper training so that they can develop skills and transition into another employment easily.
To conclude, the future of the 3.6 million garment employees might look grim right now. But it is possible that with proper and pragmatic steps, a sustainable future for them can be salvaged.
RMG sector is very much important for the economy of Bangladesh. Actually, it will never fear to call, the garment industry is the heart of our economy. There are too many problems and mismanagement of the RMG sector during The COVID-19. We can see there that, too many workers are losing their jobs, father had to sell his children, the mental and physical health of the workers is also affected by this COVID-19. Along this there are too many social problems occurring like a garment worker woman were raped in the early august in Narayanganj. So overall very tough situation is going for the garments workers in Bangladesh. We all related to this industry have to come forward to save this RMG sector and recover from this disaster COVID-19.
- Hossain, S. (2020, April).The business standard. The Economy of Bangladesh after Corona virus is over. Retrieved from http://tbsnews.net/thought/economy-bangladesh-after-corona-virus-over-64021%3famp.
- Leitheiser E., Hossain S., Sen S., Tasnim G., Moon J., Knudsen J. S.(2020, May 13).Early Impacts of Coronavirus on Bangladesh apparel supply chain. Retrieved from https://www.cbs.dk/files/cbs.dk/risc_report_impacts_of_coronavirus_on_bangladesh_rmg_1.pdf.
- The Financial Express (2020, August 6). Pandemic triggers big job losses in BD’s RMG sector. Retrieved from https://thefinancialexpress.com.bd/economy/bangladesh/pandemic-triggers-big-job-losses-in-bds-rmg-sector-wto-1596694721.
- LightCastle Partners (2020, May 13). COVID-19 And The Uncertain Future of The Garment Workers of Bangladesh. Retrieved from https://www.lightcastlebd.com/insights/2020/05/13/covid-19-and-the-uncertain-future-of-the-garment-workers-of-bangladesh.
- Humayun K., Myfanwy M., Kim U. (2020 July). The impact of COVID-19 on Bangladeshi Readymade garment (RMG) workers. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/343366416_The_impact_of_COVID-19_on_Bangladeshi_readymade_gament_RMG_workers.
- The Daily Star (2020, August 11). RMG worker gang-raped in Narayanganj. Retrieved from https://www.thedailystar.net/rape-in-bangladesh-rmg-worker-gang-raped-in-narayanganj-1943205.
- The Daily ProthomAlo (2020, May 2). Unable to Pay the Bill, the Child was Sold and Returned to His Lap by the Police. Retrieved from https://www.prothomalo.com/bangladesh/article/1654203.
- Fair Wear (2020, May 12). Reopening garment factories in Bangladesh despite Covid-19 threat. Retrieved from https://www.fairwear.org/covid-19-dossier/fair-wear-staff-share-covid-19-guidance/reopening-garment-factories-in-bangladesh-despite-covid-19-threat/.
You may also like:
- Bangladeshi Labor and the Attraction of the Textile Industry
- Impact of Covid-19 on Apparel Manufacturing Business
- Impacts of Coronavirus on Global Apparel Industry
Founder & Editor of Textile Learner. He is a Textile Consultant, Blogger & Entrepreneur. He is working as a textile consultant in several local and international companies. He is also a contributor of Wikipedia.