“Later, by devising specific plans we have to move ahead. Work must be done with educated youth who are unemployed. We have to consider not only the workers but also thousands of unemployed youth as well”, he added.

Ahsan H Mansur, executive director, Policy Research Institute (PRI), a private research firm, said it would be great if only five to seven powerful programmes could be implemented, instead of more than 150 government-run social welfare programmes that are currently active. It would reduce wastage. The number of people reaping benefits from several programmes will drop too. There is no need for various ministries to be involved in social activities simultaneously.

He also said there is secured pension scheme available for the government officers and employees. But, it is inadequate in the private sectors and there arises many problems in executing them.

Syed Saad Hossain Gilani, chief technical advisor at International Labour Organisation (ILO) said, to ensure workers’ safety ILO has been saying from the beginning that workers are not goods. So, workers must be employed considering them human beings at all time. They have to be treated logically. However, the government has to take the initiative for workers’ social safety. And the government has to spend on them.

Fazlul Hoque, former president of BKMEA, association of knitwear manufacturers said, “We always drag the context of export-oriented readymade garment sector workers while reflecting on labour rights. But, there are many workers employed beyond the readymade garment sector. The government has a more vital role alongside business owners in workers’ defence. Most of the government programmes are more focused on ultra-poor and not on workers. Now, the issue of workers’ social safety has to be included in the budget.”

Razekuzzaman, the president of Samajtantrik Sramik Front, said workers produce merchandises for the society, but when they get injured somehow, it becomes his liability completely. The society then denies all of his responsibility and it becomes tragedy for that family.

While presenting the keynote paper, Khondaker Golam Moazzem, research director, Center for Policy Dialogue, informed, “The number of accidents in the local industrial sector is on the rise. We lack the framework needed for workers’ safety here.”

“Compensation in case of injury, job security during pregnancy and financial security in times of sickness and unemployment must be provided. Among south Asian countries, we are lagging behind to guarantee availability of facilities during unemployment and security in case of injury," he added.

Kohinoor Mahmood, director, Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies (BILS) said, along with providing social safety to all the formal and informal sector workers, maternity benefits must be increased. In such cases, minimum wage must be initiated by relaxing conditions.

Syed Abdul Hamid, professor, Institute of Health Economics, Dhaka University said, several thousand workers of the country were brought under the coverage of health insurance. But, the work of the next phase never picked the pace up. Government agencies needed to come forward for that. It was not possible, only due to the lack of an institutional framework. This situation requires a change.

Sayema Haque Bidisha, research director, SANEM, a non-government research organisation, opined, “Formal benefits for readymade garment workers in our country are comparatively high, yet it is insufficient. The condition of workers of all other sectors can be easily predicted from this. To alleviate the current situation workers must be brought under social safety net programme.

Morium Nessa, manager, Women Rights and Gender Equity, ActionAid Bangladesh said, when a male in our society loses his job they find other options easily, which is not the case for women. Women workers have to keep silent even in the face of discrimination. They work day after day carrying such mental pressure. She urged to end discrimination against women everywhere including workplaces.

Abdul Quayum, associate editor, Prothom Alo addressed the welcome speech during the roundtable. Noushin Shafinaz Shah, national coordinator, EIE Project, ILO, Asaduzzaman Mohammad and Mubara Morshed, technical advisors, GIZ protection scheme were also present.

After the programme Firoz Alam, senior technical advisor, GIZ Bangladesh, gave the vote of thanks. Firoz Choudhury, assistant editor of Prothom Alo, moderated the roundtable.

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