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‘Vulnerable’ garment workers in Bangladesh bear the brunt of the coronavirus pandemic


Bangladeshi employee works at a garment manufacturing facility in Gazipur outskirts of Dhaka, Bangladesh, on March 6, 2020.

Mehedi Hasan| NurPhoto | Getty Images

SINGAPORE — The coronavirus outbreak has left the garment sector in Bangladesh reeling — and 1000’s of manufacturing facility workers bore the brunt of it as their livelihoods have been abruptly taken from them.

The garment business has lengthy been the lifeline of the economic system, however as the pandemic ravaged the world, billions of {dollars} value of orders have been canceled as international retailers shut their doorways and types held again orders.

Before the outbreak started, 22-year-old Mousumi, who declined to offer her final title, began a brand new job at a garment manufacturing facility in January after being unemployed since 2018. She made about 10,000 Bangladeshi taka ($118) every month till March, when factories round the nation have been ordered shut in order to gradual the unfold of the virus.

When factories reopened with restricted capability in April, Mousumi mentioned she was placed on standby for 3 months. Then, on Aug. 1, she mentioned she was fired.

“They were only saying one thing: that they’re firing people because of coronavirus,” Mousumi mentioned, in line with CNBC’s translation of her remarks in Bengali.

Dulali, additionally 22, misplaced her job at ABA Fashions Limited in April the place she used to make as much as 11,000 taka a month with extra time pay. She has struggled to safe employment since then. Like Mousumi, she too was informed the pandemic was to be blamed.

“They said because of coronavirus, there were no new orders coming and the factory owner was struggling to pay workers,” Dulali mentioned, in line with CNBC’s translation of her remarks in Bengali. She mentioned her job search had been futile and that many others like her have been additionally in search of work.

Dulali resides together with her eight-year-old daughter. “We are living under a lot of hardship right now,” she informed CNBC. She mentioned they owe about 16,000 taka in hire. They at the moment are scraping by together with her earnings of round 500 taka every month as a prepare dinner at her landlord’s place — a fraction of the pay she used to earn.

CNBC spoke with six workers, together with Mousumi and Dulali, by cellphone by way of the Bangladesh Independent Garment Workers Union Federation which works with numerous commerce unions. Some of them are employed, whereas others say they’ve been in search of work since April or May.

All of them spoke about the monetary hardship they face, together with potential destitution, exacerbated by the pandemic’s crippling influence.

These are the most susceptible workers, precarious in so many various methods they usually’re paying the harshest worth for this disaster.

Mark Anner

Professor at Penn State University

As the virus unfold, many prime retail manufacturers canceled orders that have been already in manufacturing. The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) estimated the pandemic had an instantaneous influence on 1,150 factories that reported $3.18 billion value of order cancellations. Between March and June this yr, Bangladesh misplaced $4.9 billion value of attire in comparison with the similar interval in 2019, in line with BGMEA.

BGMEA informed CNBC that in the final three to 4 months its member factories have reported 71,000 workers have been laid off. A spokesperson mentioned that the majority factories have retrenched workers who have been employed for lower than a yr.

‘Vulnerable’ and ‘precarious’

Bangladeshi feminine workers work at a clothes manufacturing facility in Gazipur outskirts of Dhaka on February 17, 2018.

Mehedi Hasan | NurPhoto | Getty Images

Some 4.1 million workers — largely ladies — work in the sector. But they typically work lengthy hours underneath punishing situations, and earn very low wages.

“These are some of the most vulnerable workers in Bangladesh and in countries where there’s garment exports. Young workers, women workers, (are) often internal migrants. So they’re coming from the countryside to the city,” Mark Anner, a professor of labor and employment relations at Penn State University, informed CNBC.

There are not any mounted responsibility instances. There is quite a bit of strain at work, so we’re compelled to work.

Mousumi

Bangladeshi garment employee

Bilkis Bigum, 30, misplaced her job as a garment manufacturing facility employee on April Four and has not discovered work since. To get by, she labored at a sick neighbor’s home as a home helper and initially relied on others for assist with meals.

She’s now taking over momentary, hourly work that nets her round 200 taka to 300 taka — but it surely’s not sufficient to pay hire at the second. Her brothers, who’re working, typically assist her out however they’ve their very own households to take care of too, Bigum mentioned.

“Now I work here and there, at least that way I can earn some money,” she informed CNBC in Bengali.

Many of them haven’t got financial savings and stay from paycheck to paycheck, Anner defined. So, once they lose their jobs, the influence is fast.

“Sometimes their families back home depend on them, on internal remittances — sending money from the city back home to their families. These are the most vulnerable workers, precarious in so many different ways and they’re paying the harshest price for this crisis,” he added.

Anner printed a report in March about the pandemic’s fast influence on Bangladesh’s clothes sector. He mentioned the report discovered many manufacturers have been initially unwilling to pay suppliers for the manufacturing prices and uncooked supplies that have been already bought. That compelled many factories to close down operations and furlough or hearth workers.

Reuters reported that whereas exports have staged a restoration in latest months, manufacturing facility house owners anticipate orders to be slashed by two-thirds, and say retail patrons have been demanding as much as 15% worth cuts.

Poor working situations

Brands maintain energy



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