Published : Saturday, 9 April, 2022 at 12:00 AM Count : 796
Dr. Farzana Nahid Assistant Professor, Department of Marketing & International Business, North South University Worldwide, the participation of women in workplace has been appreciated and the scenario has been improved significantly in last few years. Many companies are committed to bring about 'gender diversity' in the workplace as they initiated specialized programs. The trend is also on the rise in Bangladesh. More women have climbed up the career ladder to top leadership positions of reputed organizations, while others have found their dreams in their ventures. Although the number of females in top leadership position is not substantial though, however, it can be considered as a good start as more women are engaging themselves to pursue a career. Economic transformation of Bangladesh was driven in large-part by social changes, starting with the empowerment of women. The disparity towards women is dropping and participation of women in income generating activities and involvement of women in decision making process are gradually increasing. Women's participation in the labour force increased manifolds over time in Bangladesh. Bangladesh has emerged as a shining global model of women leadership, where we can see women with leading positions in political and social arena as the Prime Minister, Parliament Speaker and Cabinet Ministers, administrative and business leaders. Without a doubt, Bangladeshi women have demonstrated their talents, labour and competence in various occupations.
Gender parity in Bangladesh has improved across all sectors due to greater participation of women in socio-economic and political activities. In the past decade, the country's achievements in girl's education, poverty alleviation, and social safety have been improved. Bangladesh has ranked 65th out of 156 countries in the latest Global Gender Gap Index 2021, which is published by the World Economic Forum (WEF). Despite slipping 15 places from last year, Bangladesh has retained its position, as the best performing South Asian country, for seven consecutive years now.
Women empowerment still at a distance
Budgetary support for women's development has also been transformed in the last 10 years. Since 2011-12, 43 ministries have been adopting gender responsive budget. The country saw the highest allocation worth US$ 16.3 billion in its history for women development in the budget, for the 2018-19 fiscal years. This is 5.43 per cent of the GDP and 29.65 per cent of the total budget. The pace of women empowerment gained full momentum. Now, women are better educated, economically empowered and most importantly more confident than their previous generations. According to The Global Gender Gap Reports 2020, the literacy rate of women has been improved at 71.2 per cent in 2020 from 58 per cent in 2015 and 31 per cent in 2006. With increased access to higher education, the prospect for getting into high-value jobs also has expanded for women in Bangladesh. The proportion of employed women with no formal schooling decreased and the proportion with higher secondary education and degrees increased. Moreover, corporate and service oriented businesses, as well as the dedicated government policy have contributed to increase female employment. The number of total working women in Bangladesh is 20 plus million as of the date in 2020. Women are doing excellent in administrative sectors as well. Women now covering 14.48 per cent of public administration posts associated with 10 per cent civil service posts preservation. The situation of women in legislature, senior officials and managers raised from 5 per cent (2015) to 11.4 per cent at 2020 that proved that participation of women in leading is improving. In Readymade garments the numbers of working women are remarkable. It has been seen that in 1990 participation of women in the workforce was only 23.62 per cent but now it has been increased to 36.14 per cent. Interestingly, labour force participation among rural women exceeds by 37.6 per cent compared to that of urban women which is 30.8 per cent. Not only in the export oriented readymade garments sector but in many non-traditional and emerging sectors, such as hotels and restaurants, transportation, real estate services, telecommunications, banking and insurance sectors, women's participation is increasing. Currently, about 4 million women are working in the Ready-made Garment sector. During last two decades, which is from 1996-2017, the number of self-employed women increased significantly from 31 per cent to 39 per cent. Over the time, more women have come up with their own business, creating employment opportunities for themselves and other females. Women's participation has been increasing in many non-traditional and emerging sectors such as hotels and restaurants, transportation, food processing, etc. Banks and non-bank institutions are offering easy-loan to women entrepreneurs. Currently, women are entitled to get loan at discounted rate of 10 percent interest and 15 percent reference fund is reserved for them. Women are also entitled to SME loan over US$ 30,000 free of collateral, against personal guarantee. Disbursement towards women entrepreneurs has been increasing both in amount and numbers. In the 2018-19 FY, the government has allocated US$ 11.76 million for the Women Entrepreneurship Fund. Besides, the government has established Joyeeta Foundation, which is working to commercially engage grass-root women in the supply chain from production to distribution. About 18,000 women entrepreneurs under 180 registered women associations are directly engaged with the foundation. Nevertheless, Bangladesh has a separate ministry called Ministry of Women and Children Affairs which aims to implement various programs for creating employment and welfare, training programs. Initiatives have improved the scenario of women health and safety and participation. Various laws and policies have been implemented by the government of Bangladesh in order to secure Women from any violence, ensure health and education and social security. Among many, Domestic violence act 2010, The domestic violence Rules 2013, Child marriage restraint act 2017, Child Marriage Control Act 2013 are some notable ones. One-Stop Crisis Centres (OCCs) have been set up at different districts to Prevent Violence against Women. So, is this scenario at a satisfactory level? Actually No! In Bangladesh, although women constitute half of the population, women's labour force participation rate is only 36.4 per cent compared with men which are 84 per cent in 2020. Women's participation in formal labour force is rising but huge gender inequalities continue to persist in the labour market in Bangladesh. Women are heavily concentrated as unpaid family workers and day labourers in the rural areas and in unpaid family businesses In terms of quality, women are mostly involved in low-paid and low-productivity activities and according to the Labour Force Survey, 90 per cent of the employed women labour in 2020 are engaged in the informal economy. According to official statistics, though on average women earn about 94 per cent of what men earn, it varies across sectors. The low share of women's incomes compared to men's on average is partly due to women's involvement in the informal sector to a greater extent. Informal sector comprises the major share of female employment which is about 89 per cent. Again, Job mobility is also very low among women. In the RMG factories most female are engaged as production workers and only a few as supervisors. Why this low rate? Lack of infrastructure, for example, lack of transport, toilet, child care facility and overall security hinder them to take part in the job market. Early marriage is another factor that does not allow girls to continue with their studies and enter the work force. This is alarming not only because it will reduce women's participation in the labour force but also because it can increase violence. Gender stereotypes in the society can be other obvious reasons of lack of women in leadership positions in Bangladesh. Moreover, workplace condition and sensitivity to gender issues in workplace can also be some underlying causes of the under-representation of women. Technological up gradation in many sectors has taken away more jobs from women than from men. Who so? Most women, who use information technology, use it at work. Except in upper income enclaves, access to a computer or the Internet at home is not a typical phenomenon." Many factors affect the digital inclusion of women such as literacy and education, language, time, cost, geographical location of facilities, social and cultural norms, and women's computer literacy levels and information search and dissemination skills. Nevertheless, social factors play an important role here. Because of the reproductive role, many women are forced to choose between motherhood and careers. Although a large number of promising young university graduates enter the job market their interest starts to decline over time, due to family responsibilities. This reduces the number of potential women in senior positions. When they are ready to get back to the job market their skills become outdated. Some choose to be self-employed through small businesses whilst many cannot do so due to lack of capital and information. Those who continue to pursue their careers actually juggle between home and work in an attempt to make a balance. Irrespective of Bangladesh government's significant initiatives contributing to women empowerment and gender equality, Bangladesh ranks 76th out of 78 countries on the UNDP Gender Empowerment measure. Besides, in Bangladesh 66 per cent are experienced of family violence, 80 per cent are experienced opened or closed sexual harassment in the workplace, about 52 per cent girls are married at under 18 years old, only 16 per cent women has access in ICT sectors. Without a doubt, these have pushed women back from the main-streamed economic involvement. The participation in the formal economy is crucial for women's economic empowerment. The regular wages and salaries, relative job security, prospects for promotion and regulated working conditions in formal employment can offer significant potential benefits for women. Formal employment has the ability to increase women's access to skill development, market information, credit, technology and other productive assets, social protection, pensions and social safety nets. This cannot be denied that, over the last fifty years, targeted efforts by the Bangladesh government and the nongovernment actors have played important roles in creating the initial condition-state at the micro-level through initiating grassroots level transformations for promoting women's economic empowerment. It is true that these initiatives, no doubt, have created the essential building blocks for developing the critical linkages between micro and macro levels which can trigger rapid transformations ineconomy-wide and sector-specific gender barriers, and to prepare the macro economy to effectively respond to these micro-signals to women's economic empowerment.