The number of women workers in Bangladesh’s readymade garment sector – in the past it was said that around 70-80 per cent of the workforce in the sector comprised women – is coming down gradually.
This was underlined by a couple of surveys, including survey taken by Mapped in Bangladesh (MiB), which revealed the findings on 13 December.
The MiB’s 4-year research initiative, which started in 2018, reportedly, found that there are around 3,223 export-oriented units engaged in apparel manufacturing, which employs over 2.56 million people, of which 1.49 million or around 58.3 per cent, are female.
The initiative (to map the export-oriented RMG industry across the country digitally) was started by the Centre for Entrepreneurship Development of Brac University and is funded by the Laudes Foundation and the Netherlands, while garment makers’ bodies – the Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA) and the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) – are the strategic partners.
Meanwhile, another survey carried out by the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) in 2018, reportedly, found that women workers in the sector were 60.80 per cent, which went on to hold automation as the principal reason behind the falling number of women workers as female workers are reportedly proportionately less knowledgeable than their male counterparts about operating different machines.
Earlier, a survey conducted by the Asian Center for Development in 2015 found 65 per cent were female workers, while a baseline study by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), reportedly, found women represented 61.17 per cent of the sector’s workforce in 2018, which was a decline from 63.4 per cent in 2010.
However, as per media reports, BGMEA President Dr. Rubana Huq reportedly underlined that although the ratio might be less than the prevailing perception, there’s no evidence as such that points towards decline in the number of women workers in the sector.
Underlining the previous perception of higher ratio of women workers in the apparel sector was not backed by any survey or database of workers, the BGMEA President, reportedly, stated so the narrative of declining female workforce derived out of the relatively less ratio of female in this sector was not the fact and went on to reportedly maintain that while the findings of the MiB suggested the ratio of males versus females to be 41.7 per cent and 58.3 per cent, the recent survey report of the Asian Center for Development found it to be 40.8 per cent and 59.2 per cent; therefore, on an average a men-women ratio of 40 per cent and 60 per cent can be generalised across the industry.