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Labor and Social Protection

The price of success – and how can we ensure that we can afford to pay it?

Sundararajan Gopalan's picture

Talking to a Sri Lankan friend about his 80-year old mother, who has been living alone ever since his father passed away 4 years back, brought back memories of my own mother who passed away at the age of 76 in 2008. As my Sri Lankan friend was worried about his mother’s living arrangements (he is happy to have her move in with him, but she prefers to stay alone in the house that has been her home for 46 years), I began to muse about my own father who lives alone at 85 years. He is in reasonable health for his age, and is largely independent, except that he needs oxygen support every night while sleeping as his lungs have lost significant capacity due to fibrosis, and his eyesight has deteriorated considerably. I was feeling guilty for not taking care of him in his old age. Again, it is his decision not to move in with any of his children, as he wants to stay in the apartment which he is familiar with and to be ‘independent’. We have appointed a care-taker who stays with him all day, while my sister and brother-in-law who live just a kilometer away give him company in the nights. Still the guilt feeling is no less.

First Semester: The Challenges of Growing Up

Lauren MacDonald's picture

International Youth Day is a time to celebrate the youth of countries from around the world. The United Nations announced the theme for this year as Dialogue and Mutual Understanding, emphasizing the importance of communication not only within their generation, but among different generations as well. Only through conversation and open dialogue can opinions and perspectives be understood, cultivating ideas for change and developing aspirations for the future.

Financing Living Wage in Bangladesh’s Garment Industry

Zahid Hussain's picture

The Wage Board on garments in Bangladesh nearly doubled minimum wages on July 29, 2010. The minimum wage at the entry level will be raised to Tk 3,000 a month (or about $43) from Tk 1,662.50 ($24). The new pay structure, proposed to be effective from November 1, maintains the existing seven grades with the highest pay fixed at Tk 9,300 ($140) per month. About 3.5 million Bangladeshis work in the garment industry, which accounts for 80 percent of the country’s exports. International companies like Wal-Mart, JC Penney, H&M, Zara, Tesco, Carrefour, Gap, Metro, Marks & Spencer, Kohl's, Levi Strauss and Tommy Hilfiger all import in bulk from Bangladesh.

Garment workers apparently are unhappy over their wages, even after the proposed increase. They protested by smashing vehicles and blocking traffic in various garment sites in Dhaka following the announcement of the wage increase. Why has the frequency of violence increased?

Let Good Sense Prevail in Bangladesh’s Garment Industry

Zahid Hussain's picture

The garment industry in Bangladesh has been subject to several tests of resilience in recent years—global recession, energy shortage, input price increases, and labor unrest. Of late, the labor unrest has escalated apparently triggered by disagreement over re-fixation of minimum wage. The workers, for quite some time now, have been pressing for adjustment in minimum wage that was last increased in 2006, after 12 years, from Tk. 930* (about $60 in PPP) per month to Tk. 1,662 (about $108 in PPP) per month. The government in April 2010 committed that a new pay-scale for the RMG workers will be announced before Ramadan, and formed a Wage Board for making the wage recommendations. For reasons not yet fully understood, the labor unrest was reignited recently without waiting to hear what the Wage Board’s recommendations are. However, it is abundantly clear that dissatisfaction with the nominal level of the minimum wage is at the center of the discord between garment owners and workers.

Bangladeshi Communities Build "New Lives"

Meena Munshi's picture

In 2008, I sat with a focus group of about 15 women in a rural village of Bagerhat district in southern Bangladesh. I and some colleagues had visited their village the day before and saw their desperate living conditions and the family conflicts that erupted because of it. This village, and many others, had been hit by cyclone Sidr four months earlier.

We asked the women about their aspirations; they responded with blank stares. But after just two hours of discussion, these women had absorbed and understood the importance of savings, of credit, of good governance, and how they could rebuild (and improve) their lives and livelihoods. At the end of the meeting, one woman told us, “We came here because we thought you would give us food, but we’re not hungry anymore. We have hope.”

The women in Bagerhat and 7 other districts are part of the Social Investment Program Project (SIPP), which has been working in Bangladesh since 2004, when it started as a US$18 million pilot, to introduce community driven development to the country’s rural communities.

They Shall Overcome; Some Day…

Naomi Ahmad's picture

They looked up shyly as I entered the class room. Curious eyes focused on me, as I bend to sit on the jute mat on the floor, careful not to step on all the books in front of us. They were learning about the difference between "ship" and "sheep" – the difference in pronunciation, spelling and meaning.

I stole a look around the classroom – it was a small dingy room with bamboo walls and a thatched roof – but in spite of the surroundings, the children had put in their best efforts to liven things up. Colorful paintings of flowers, fruits, trees and birds were hung up all around – vivid splashes of red, green, fuchsia and sky blue. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a painting of a woman in an orange sari, balancing a pitcher of water on her hips, a plump mango in her hand, a wide grin on her face framed by long flowing black hair.

These must be the images and colors of their dreams, I thought. They were the children of Ananda Schools - Learning Centers known as the Schools of Joy.

“Whatever we lost we will regain” – The North Revives After Conflict in Sri Lanka

Chulie De Silva's picture
28 year old mum Sewdini with Kuveneshi. The future is theirs. Photograph © Chulie de Silva

They come carrying babies in arms, toddlers in bicycle baskets, the disabled in wheel chairs, the old and the young, to gather under a tree to plan and build back their village and the community. The meeting at Jeyapuram South in the North of Sri Lanka is held under the Cash for Work Program (CfW) a component of the World Bank’s Emergency Northern Recovery Project (ENREP). The meeting of resettled villagers commences with songs of inspiration, with everyone joining in. The voices are strong, they sing in unison, and hands are raised, the spirits revived.

The CfW program is the only source of employment for a large number of the people in most of the resettled villages immediately after their return to their home villages. The program provides incomes to the returning Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) a minimum of 50 days of employment to rehabilitate their own houses and gardens, clean and repair wells, irrigation canals, roads, drains, schools, mosque and church buildings. The aim of the CfW is to bridge the income gap between the time of return of the returnees (after receiving emergency resettlement provisions) and until the IDPs are able to obtain an income from regular livelihoods.

Empowering Local Leaders for Sustainable Development in Bangladesh

Nilufar Ahmad's picture

The Bangladesh Local Governance Support Project (LGSP) was initiated in 2005 when local leaders voiced their demand for discretionary funds among others to serve their constituencies at a meeting. Union Parishad (UP) is the lowest tier of rural local government has a history over 170 years and held regular elections, however, UPs never received direct funding.

Funds were previously allocated by line ministries at the Upazila (sub-district) level for certain activities; neither the local government (UP) nor local people had a say on their own development priorities. The UP act of 1983 designated 38 mandates on the UP, but made no fund provision for carrying out those mandates. The average population of an UP was about 35,000 and UPs are the closest service delivery institutes to citizens. In 1998, an UP amendment ensured direct election of women in three seats.

While the Minister of Local Government was supportive of the project, most of the national political leaders (ministers, members of parliament) and bureaucrats were against autonomous local governments. Nationwide consultations were organized between local leaders and communities, supported by civil society, for mobilizing a united voice of local needs and incorporating these in the project design. It was a challenging time with episodes of violence.

Employment Programs By Any Other Name...

Maitreyi Bordia Das's picture

Is it an employment program? Is it an anti-poverty program? Is it a safety net? Is it a disaster management program, is it…..? Actually, it’s all of these. Public works programs are both good development and good politics. India’s National Employment Guarantee Scheme (now called the Mahatma Gandhi EGS) , despite its implementation challenges, is fast becoming the stuff international lore is made of.

Demographers talk of the diffusion effects of ideas of low fertility and other behaviors. And while South Asian countries have a history of public works programs as safety nets – a history that actually goes back to the Maurya Empire in circa 3rd century BC - the diffusion effect of NREGS across South Asia is apparent. This is as much due to the urgent employment needs in all countries in the region, as due to the fact that the Congress victory in India was purported to have hinged significantly on NREGS.

International Women's Day: Why Aren’t We More Concerned About Women’s Physical Safety?

Maitreyi Bordia Das's picture

Fundamental rights in most South Asian countries include freedom of movement – you can go where you want, when you want within a country. But for the majority of South Asian girls and women the reality is very different – they need permission to go almost anywhere. Now, does this stem from norms of patriarchal control or a rational response to threat of physical harm? I like to believe the two are mutually reinforcing. When families are afraid of what will happen to their daughters when they go out alone, they tend to be over-protective or over-controlling. This is certainly what happened to me and my peers as we grew up in Delhi in the 70s and 80s. While many more women are out in public spaces now, the very fact of this visibility is often a trigger for violence. Fewer than half of married women surveyed in Pakistan or Bangladesh feel safe moving alone outside their village or settlement, even during the day (World Bank 2006, 2008).

Safety and security of women in public spaces is seen often as a right, which indeed it is, but, lack of it is also a huge impediment to accessing a range of services and markets – for instance, health care, education and employment. In Pakistan and India, one of the reasons why girls drop out of school after puberty and especially when secondary schools are located a long walk away, is the fear of violence en route.

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