Additionally, 98% were forced to spend their wages more on health safety equipment, as a result cutting down on food and education
The income of at least one-third of the readymade garment (RMG) workers interviewed for a study dropped 53% due to the Covid-19 pandemic, compared to 2019.
Additionally, 98% were forced to spend their wages more on health safety equipment, as a result cutting down on food and education.
The findings were revealed on Monday as part of a rapid analysis on Bangladesh's RMG sector, where 115 workers, 72% of whom were female, from four factories, two champion factories supported by Girls Advocacy Alliance (GAA) and two regular factories.
Plan International, GAA and Awaj Foundation presented the study findings.
The purpose of the study was to know the extent of which Covid-19 affected women’s empowerment through the RMG factories in Bangladesh.
Specifically, key inquiries were employment, working hours and earnings, access to social protection, workplace safety, women voice and representation.
According to the study, 43% of workers struggled with economic hardship, illness and mental strains.
Besides, regular job benefits dropped such as buying clothes during Eid festivals, food and transportation offered by factories.
Another concerning aspect revealed was the rising debt level of workers.
More than half (52%) of the respondents were currently in debt, ranging from Tk12,000 to Tk40,000, or Tk20,000 on average.
As a result, workers are forced to cut off expenses for food and education. At least 27% of the respondents decreased their spending on food, suffering from nutritional deficiency as a result.
Although the working hour remains same, workload increased, they added.
The study also compared between the champion and standard factories, where Covid-19 testing fees were paid by the champion factories, while workers of the standard factories had to personally bear the test charges.
Champion factories also took initiatives to uplift female workers, from operator to floor supervisors, while in standard factories such initiatives were absent.
Women were present in leadership positions at champion factories, while that was not the case in the standard factories.
Meanwhile, NGOs and stakeholders presented 12 recommendations in the study.
Those included increasing testing facilities, support from the factories, participatory auditing safety measures, workers' rights and welfare, active monitoring by government institutions such as the RMG Sustainable Council (RSC), ensure living wages for the RMG workers (to the tune of $200), resumption of transport facility, special attention to pregnant workers, social security mechanism such insurance, employment and wage security, awareness raising to prevent gender based violence in the factories and establish and an active anti-harassment committee.