Labour intensive business models inadvertently expose companies and workers to risks due to limited transparency in recruitment, employment and working conditions, as well as migration processes. Lack of awareness about labour standards and ethical recruitment practices are among the factors that exacerbate the vulnerabilities of migrant workers.
Sustainable sourcing, ethical labour, and recruitment practices are the keys to address the issues. It’s also imperative to industry growth in Bangladesh.
These are the key messages of experts from government, the business community, civil society and development partners shared at an event titled “Uplifting the Competitiveness of Bangladesh through Ethical Labour Practices in Supply Chains” held on 1 September at Hotel InterContinental Dhaka.
International Organization for Migration (IOM) and International Business Forum Bangladesh (IBFB) organized the event to provide relevant stakeholders with insights on Bangladesh’s migration and labour nexus as well as highlighting the country priorities and create awareness and dialogues between institutions on sustainable sourcing and ethical recruitment.
In the concept note of the event it shows, in Bangladesh, employment opportunities, climate change, natural disasters, and marriage are key triggers for migration movements from the rural to the urban sector and cross border migration. Dhaka and Chittagong are the destinations of 80% of the country’s internal migrants. This is the internal migration landscape that allows Bangladesh, the world’s third-largest exporter of clothing, Asia’s third in commercial services and recently an important player in the export of agricultural goods; to continue thriving economically. Additionally, more than 730,000 workers have also migrated internationally in 2018. In short, the migration nexus of Bangladesh is unique.
However, workers are at risks due to lack of awareness and limited capacity to implement appropriate corporate policies and management systems also contribute to vulnerabilities of workers.
Addressing the issue, Sharon Dimance, Deputy Chief of Mission, IOM Bangladesh, said, “Bangladesh has a significant market opportunity for businesses to secure their connection to a global market where the legalization of corporate responsibility, including ethical recruitment, is increasingly becoming a reality. If Bangladesh ensures sustainable sourcing and ethical recruitment, it will increase the country’s competitiveness.
Dr. Ahmed Munirus Saleheen, Additional Secretary of Ministry of Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment said, “Migration is a critical nexus in Bangladesh. We have a lot of challenges. Unethical labour practice is one of them. However, we have a legal framework so that ethical issues have been maintained Bangladesh has adopted a very inclusive macroeconomic policy which helps us to address the issue of unethical labour practice.”
Speakers at the event discussed that Bangladesh public sector, businesses, and civil society, must come together to overcome a fundamental challenge: to tackle the risks to human and labour rights faced by its workforce by improving the enforcement of ethical recruitment and fair employment in its domestic supply chains.
Dr. Rubana Huq, President of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association said, “Labour is a very sensitive issue. That’s why we need to take this issue as an utmost priority. Yes, we have some problem in our sector. But the quality and quantity are very low. However, we have the scope to develop our sector. If we want to develop our sector, we need to have a collective initiative. We need to be strategic. We want to do what is best for our labours. We need to make a bridge among the stakeholders. And, we need to engage ourselves to bring positive changes.”
Asif Ibrahim, former president of DCCI and director of BGMEA said, “We take workers issue very seriously. We must follow labour law. We want to promote a sustainable business model where we have a good supply chain.”
Humayan Rashid, President of International Business Forum Bangladesh (IBFB), said, “We want to promote ethical labour practices. It will help us to build a better business environment. This will include improving well-being and opportunities for Bangladeshi workers.”
The event also discussed the steps enterprises can take to adopt best practices that are good for business and fair for workers. IOM shared how it has been supporting companies encourage to improve their labour supply chains under its Corporate Responsibility in Eliminating Slavery and Trafficking (CREST) initiative and present on its International Recruitment Integrity System (IRIS) ethical recruitment standard. The event also included two working sessions titled ‘The Business Case for taking action towards Ethical Labour Practices’ and ‘The Role of International Policies, Regulations, and Codes of Conduct in Business Growth’. About 35 heads of human resources departments of different corporate attended the seminar.
Dr. Md. Rezaul Haque, Additional Secretary of Labour Wing, Ministry of Labour and Employment, People’s Republic of Bangladesh, Ms. Kazi Roushan Ara, Executive Director of Leathergoods And Footwear Manufacturers & Exporters Association of Bangladesh (LFMEAB), Ms. Marina Manke, Head of Labour Mobility and Human Development Division, IOM International and Mr. Saiful Millat, Country Representative, Amfori Bangladesh also joined the event.