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Labour force participation of females stagnant in Bangladesh

  • Published at 12:05 am August 17th, 2018
Economic Dialogue
Speakers at a session of the Economic Dialogue on Inclusive Growth, at The Westin in Dhaka on Thursday Courtesy

The SANEM executive director offered 12 policy suggestions to help increase the participation of women in the labour force

South Asian Network on Economic Modeling (SANEM) Executive Director, Dr Selim Raihan, has said labour force participation of females in Bangladesh is stagnant, despite some progress in the area.

He made the comment while delivering the keynote presentation at a session of the Economic Dialogue on Inclusive Growth (EDIG). The dialogue was jointly arranged by the Asia Foundation, Overseas Development Institute (ODI), and UKAID, at The Westin in Dhaka on Thursday.

Dr Selim said: “Despite some progress, the labour force participation rate of females has been stagnant at around 33%-36% from 2010-17. The participation rate of females is much lower than that of males.”

The SANEM executive director offered 12 policy suggestions to help increase the participation of women in the labour force. He broke the suggestions into three parts: gender norms, skill development and education, and other policies.

Gender norms

Under gender norms, Dr Selim first suggested that women be offered support through tax rebates, cheaper credit facilities, and the establishment of day care centres at the workplace.

Second, he proposed extending the provisions of maternity and post-maternity leave, and the introduction of flexible and part time working hour schemes.

Furthermore, he stressed the need for implementation of anti child marriage laws.

Finally, he called for a gender friendly environment at educational institutes and workplaces, as well as monetary incentives from the government, or through public-private partnerships.

Skill development and education

Dr Selim stressed the need for government support at the initial stages of skill development, as well as support for marketing the products of self-employed women.

He also asked that the curriculum of educational institutes be aligned with actual market demand, in collaboration with the private sector.

Furthermore, the SANEM executive director called for the strengthening of collaboration between vocational institutes and industries.

In addition, he suggested that monetary incentives be given to firms for training their workers, especially women.

Other policies

Dr Selim said initiatives from the government or NGOs to bring  unpaid females into the mainstream was crucial to increasing the labour force participation of females.

He also suggested that specific and flexible policies be implemented by the government to ease credit constraints for women.

Last, he said providing social protection directly to females can help them participate in the labour force.

Agriculture and technology

Speakers at the dialogue said women were mostly engaged in low paying jobs, as well as unpaid work at family farms.

They also said the issue of whether women were more vulnerable to technological advancement than men needed to be considered.

Planning Commission GEG Senior Secretary, Dr Shamsul Alam, said: “If the government is efficient, then the market can become efficient. An efficient market can help empower women. The private sector can play a big role in increasing the employment of women.”

Local communities in Cox’s Bazar

In an earlier session at the dialogue, speakers discussed measures for inclusive growth in local communities of Cox’s Bazar.

ODI research fellow, Dr Maria Quattri, delivered the keynote presentation.

Former governor of Bangladesh Bank, Dr Atiur Rahman, said: “The people who are going to Cox’s Bazar are mostly consumers who are tech and brand savvy. There is high potential for growth and significant investment opportunity there.” 

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