Female workers paid less as they protest less

Kazi Azizul Islam

Recruitment of female workers in formal and non-formal industrial sectors continues as it is easier to pay them relatively lower wages for they protest less against deprivations and violations of rights by the employers.
   Despite better performances and dedication, around 10 million women workers, constituting about 24.4 per cent of the country’s labour force, are deprived of gender-sensitive rights by their employers, said labour leaders, activists and researchers.
   Although 80 per cent workers in readymade garment stitching units in Bangladesh are women, a recent random survey by the Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies shows that women are being increasingly recruited in the backward linkage textile units.
   ‘More and more women are being employed in spinning and weaving units, in some cases they are replacing the males,’ said Nazma Yesmin, programme officer of BILS’s women worker development project.
   Pointing out that demand for female workers was increasing as they were available at lower wages, Nazma said, ‘Female workers are unlikely to protest much against deprivations.’
   A senior executive of the Bangladesh Textile Mills Association, who could not recall the names of even five women in a hundred workers in the backward linkage textile units a decade ago, said, ‘Around 50 percent workers in the spinning units and 25 percent in the weaving units are women now.’
   More than 300 spinning units and higher number of weaving units now employ more than 0.8 million workers.
   ‘Really they are relatively peaceful,’ the official said. However, he disagreed that the textile units deprived female workers of living wages.
   Nazama Akter, the president of Awaj Foundation, said scopes of jobs for women in the garment and textile sectors were available, but facilities were not provided according to rules. ‘Bangladeshi women workers receive very few facilities when common facilities of the workers across the world are taken into consideration.’
   A survey, released last week, by a rights advocacy organization, Karmajibi Nari, also revealed the sorry state of facilities for women workers.
   The survey, which was conducted on more than a hundred factories in and outside the capital, revealed that 41 percent female garment workers faced discriminations in wages, 60 percent faced discriminations in getting promotions, 39 percent did not get maternity leave with payments.
   Some 75 percent garment workers face verbal abuses at their work places and 46 percent face physical abuses by their supervisors or managers.
   There are a good number of women workers in the garment and textile units, rice mills, shrimp processing zones, restaurants and construction works but still the highest number of female workers are to be found in the primary agriculture sector.
   Mahmud Ul Ala, a researcher at the Institute of Bangladesh Studies in the University of Rajshahi, said that the state of women rights was deplorable at workplaces in remote areas in the country especially in the non-formal sector.
   Visiting several rice mills in different northern districts, Ala talked with women workers most of whom, he found, ignorant about their rights.
   ‘Resting facilities, special care to pregnant workers, maternity leave and job security are totally absent from the rice mills,’ said the researcher.

Source: The Daily New Age, 01 May 2009

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