COVID-19 Learning, Evidence and Research (CLEAR) for Bangladesh: Impact of COVID-19 on Labour Rights and Working Conditions in Four Selected Sectors

This paper examines the labour rights and working conditions—defined as wages, employment conditions, safety, and security of workers—of formal and informal economic sectors in the context of COVID-19. By looking at four specific cases (road transport, RMG, beauty parlours, and street vending), this paper presents the existing condition of labour rights, how the pandemic aggravated such conditions, and how well the existing research—academic, policy reports, and media reports—has reflected the situation. Primary data collection methods included focus group discussions (FGDs) with the workers employed in specific sectors and KIIs with non-governmental organizations (NGOs), policymakers, and trade union activists. Secondary data broadly included national and international policy reports, academic journals, laws, acts and regulations, survey reports, media reports, newspaper articles, and relevant grey literature. COVID-19 further worsened the situation of rights and conditions of the workers. The sector lacks attention from the government despite being a recognized industry. Findings reveal that COVID-19 had a substantial adverse impact on the existing poor state of labour rights and working conditions. The dearth of research in most sectors makes data-driven policymaking difficult. Sectors like transport and beauty parlour, despite their recognition as formal sectors, have embedded informality in terms of ensuring labour rights. The RMG sector, recognized as the most important sector contributing to the economy, also suffers in terms of poor working conditions, precarious worker rights, and weak collective action. The case of street vending shows that, as an informal sector, it lacks priority and incentive from the government to address worker rights and working conditions.

Authors: Hassan, Mirza M.; Aziz, Syeda Salina; Rahemin, Raeesa; Khan, Insiya; Hoque, Rafsanul
Type: Scoping paper
Year: 2022