Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has said that it is absolutely necessary to conclude a new social contract globally to face the multidimensional challenges of the present century. The main goal of this social contract may be to establish social justice for all in the interests of sustainable development.
Sheikh Hasina, Bangladesh Prime Minister, spoke at the General Session of the World of Work Summit: ‘Social Justice for All’ in Geneva, Switzerland on the 13th lsy.
The Prime Minister of Bangladesh said that Bangladesh is moving forward with determination to build a just, inclusive and sustainable society by acquiring the ability to deal with various natural and man-made disasters of the past. And she added that the country have met all MDG targets. Multidimensional activities have been undertaken to achieve the goals of the SDGs. By 2026, our final transition from the United Nations Least Developed Country list will take place. In this context, we are implementing the roadmap for the period 2021-2026 related to the labor sector. Bangladesh is a signatory to eight of the 10 fundamental ILO conventions on labor rights protection. We are also actively considering the ratification of two new fundamental ILO instruments on occupational health and safety.
She said it was a matter of great regret that some of the developed countries that were vocal about labor rights had not themselves signed most of the ILO’s fundamental instruments. For example, a major industrialized country has signed only two fundamental treaties. Bangladesh has recently signed ILO Convention 138 on fixing the minimum age for child labour. We have declared eight vulnerable sectors as ‘Child Labour-Free’. Besides, in the financial year 2023-24, the program is underway to bring back 1 lakh child laborers engaged in hazardous work to normal life by providing informal and technical education. I want to free the country from the curse of child labor for the sake of a healthy and safe future generation. We have amended the Bangladesh Labor Act, 2006 in two rounds in 2013 and 2018 as recommended by the ILO. Besides, the Bangladesh Labor Rules, 2015 have been amended. By this year, the Labor Act, Working on further amendments in 2006. We have already given necessary approvals for implementation of Bangladesh Labor Act, 2006 in Special Economic Zones.
Hasina said, we have established six new Labor Courts along with one Labor Appellate Tribunal and seven Labor Courts. At the same time, alternative dispute resolution programs for workers and employers are being institutionalized. Besides, ‘Industrial Police’ units have been formed for the industrial factories of the country. We have assessed the safety and working environment of all ready-made garment factories in the country and renovated the export-oriented factories based on this. More than half of the world’s top 100 eco-friendly garment factories are now in Bangladesh. To further this achievement we have formulated ‘Green Factory Award Policy’. i would hope International buyers will further encourage these eco-friendly initiatives by buying products at fair prices. We are setting up a ‘National Institute for Research and Training in Occupational Health and Safety’. Specialist doctors are providing regular medical care to workers through 32 labor welfare centers. We have increased the number of labor inspectors to 711 to ensure safety and conducive working environment. A web-based ‘Labour Inspection Management Application’ has been launched with the technical support of ILO.
An independent tripartite review board has been constituted for the apparel industry. Our government has increased the minimum wage of garment workers from Tk 1,600 to Tk 8,000. We are considering framing a policy framework for fixing minimum wages through collective bargaining in various industrial sectors. Trade union registration has been made online. The trade union registration rate increased from 60 percent in 2013 to 90 percent in 2022. The number of trade unions in the readymade garment industry has increased 9 times in the last 9 years. Workers and employers are regularly trained on trade union registration process. Besides, two separate toll-free helplines have been launched for EPZ and non-EPZ areas. Along with this, a database containing the information of the garment industry workers is being prepared to ensure transparency and discipline in the provision of salaries and other benefits to the workers. woman Maternity protection of workers including four months leave with wages and maternity benefits are included in the Labor Act. In Narayanganj and Chittagong industrial areas, 1,530 working women workers have been provided with low-cost accommodation. Besides, 6,430 day-care centers have been set up in various industries and institutions.
The Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina, has said, she already has ordered to show zero-tolerance against violence or harassment against women in all workplaces including industrial establishments. Recently I directed to look into inclusion of women’s unpaid domestic work in national GDP. Under Bangladesh Sramik Kalyan Foundation, workers and their family members are getting financial assistance in various sectors. Along with this, a ‘Central Fund’ has been formed under the Ministry of Labor and Employment for the socio-economic development of workers and their families working in export-oriented industries. An ‘Employment Injury Insurance Scheme’ has been introduced on a pilot basis in 2022 for garment workers. 2 million young people are entering our labor market every year.
Sheikh Hasina has said that her government is establishing 100 special economic zones across the country with the aim of creating 1 crore employment opportunities by 2030. Along with this, initiatives have been taken to set up 39 hi-tech parks with the aim of investment and employment in the information technology sector. Under this, employment opportunities will be created for 52 thousand by 2025 and 2 lakh by 2030. We are committed to building ‘Smart Bangladesh’ as per Vision 2041. For this purpose, a special allocation of 9.2 million dollars has been kept in the research and innovation sector in the budget of the next financial year. Through research and innovation centers of various universities, 80,000 youth will be trained in advanced technology and innovation. 650,000 freelancers of the country have been included in the mainstream of their economy through registration. We provide soft loans to cottage, micro, small and medium industries, Providing refinancing and free training. Working capital facilities of around $6 billion have been provided to these industries so far under the government’s incentive package to combat the losses of the Covid-19 epidemic. In the current financial year, Bangladesh Bank has launched a refinancing scheme worth about 2.3 billion dollars in the CMSME sector. So far more than 50 thousand entrepreneurs have been trained through SME Foundation.
Sheikh Hasina said that their aim is to increase the enrollment rate in technical education from the current 17 percent to 30 percent by 2030. We are building specialized institutes in ocean research, aeronautical technology, biotechnology, nanotechnology and frontier technology to prepare our youth for the fourth industrial revolution. We have established ‘Prabasi Kalyan Bank’ to reduce overall immigration costs and provide loans to expatriates on easy terms. Bangladesh continues to play a leading role in ensuring safe, orderly and regular migration. We continue to draw the attention of the international community to the impact of climate change on the overall working environment, including potential migration.
The Prime Minister said that our government will actively consider joining this global alliance through further discussions with social partners at the national level. In this context, from our point of view, I would like to present five propositions-
One. Rather than being a standard-setting or negotiating forum, it would be preferable to develop this alliance as a consultative or advocacy platform.
Two. In the current geopolitical context, the Alliance must be wary of using ‘social justice’ as a weapon by one international community against another.
Three. This coalition should campaign for social justice within a systematic multilateral trading system, rather than using it as a protectionist tool, but to play a role in its wider promotion.
Four. The ILO’s own stakeholders must ensure broad support for this alliance to engage international financial institutions with a view to creating decent work and productive employment.
Five. This coalition should focus on developing the youth community as advocates of social justice. Only social justice can lay the foundation for lasting peace and sustainable development. We must give special importance to social justice in our efforts to build a peaceful, just and inclusive society worldwide.