Speakers at a webinar urged the government to launch universal pension scheme for the sake of private sector employees in the country. They also said the employment should also be focused in the upcoming budget for 2021-22.
The participants said these at the webinar titled- “Private sector employment amid Covid-19: Expectations from budget FY22” organized by Bangladesh Private Employees Forum (BPEF), a non-profit and non-political organization, on Saturday.
BPEF Convener Rafilkul Islam presided over the function while journalist Muhammad Al-Amin Abir moderated it. According to data of Labour Force Survey 2016-17, there are 6.08 crore employed labourers in Bangladesh. Of them, 85.1 percent work in the informal sector while over 1.5 crore people are in formal sector.
Noted economist and Executive Director of Policy Research Institute of Bangladesh (PRI) Dr Ahsan H Mansur said, “We do not have accurate statistics on private employment. A survey is conducted after few years. But there is no information about how much employment is increasing. The government is dealing with GDP, which cannot be touched. Our per capita income $2200 dollar but we are getting poorer.’
He added the income of 60 percent people came down due to the COVID-19. However, more financial support is needed in the SME sector. The government has to take care of whether the bank loan is bankrupt or not. Liability cannot be imposed on the bank sector alone.
“I urged finance minister to pay Tk2000 among one crore poor every month amid the pandemic. Health, social safety net and employment issues should be focused in the upcoming budget,” he added.
The Executive Director of Research and Policy Integration for Development (RAPID) and former Chairman of Development Studies Department at Dhaka University Dr Mohammed Abu Eusuf underscored the need for proper database to meet all problems posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mashroor Riaz, chairman of the Policy Exchange of Bangladesh said about 24.8 million people lost their jobs since last year. They are all from the private sector. This is 16 percent of the total working hours. It would have increased a lot more if the government had not given incentives.
‘Even before Corona, employment growth in the garment sector had slowed. According to a 2020 BIDS study, 1.6 million young people have lost their jobs. The UNDP says 2.7 million workers have lost their jobs. They are all from the private sector. Imports of machineries declined by 36 per cent and private investment by 39 per cent. The incentives that the government had given earlier had no employment benefits. The government can add it to this year’s budget. The government has to give another incentive package, whatever the name,” he added.
ERF General Secretary SM Rashidul Islam said, “95 per cent of the total employees in the country work in the private sector. But we have not been able to bring the structure in any other sector except the readymade garments sector.’
BGMEA vice-president Shahidullah Azim said, “Although there is a lot of problem in our garment sector in Corona, the infection rate is 3 percent, though, at the beginning of Corona, 60-70 thousand workers lost their jobs. However, they later rejoined the workplace or elsewhere.
“Now we are trying to turn around. We had a 5 million grant to start the closed small factories, which could be increased to 10 million. The demand for synthetic yarn in the world is now 70 percent and cotton 30 percent. The price of the cotton is high. Synthetic yarn production can be financed to add value to the product, he added.
DCCI President Rezwan Rahman said, “The finance minister had made a proposal for voluntary pension system. It requires a law. The law is everywhere. But to what extent it can be brought under the law is an important issue. After support to the garments sector, it now has the capacity to export 50 billion. If other sectors are selected and assisted, another 50 billion exports can be gained from there as well.
Rajekuzzaman Ratan, president of the Socialist Workers Front said, “ All labor forces in the country need to be added in the database. As the country’s GDP grows, so does the need for investment and employment. Considering the issue of private sector employees.