LDC graduation needs reform of labour laws: CPD

Staff Correspondent

21 January, 2021 12:00 AM printer

Bangladesh is likely to graduate from LDC category in next five years, but it needs to address a number of labour and human rights challenges in order to ensure smooth graduation.

The view came at a dialogue of Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) held virtually on Wednesday.

Major initiatives are required in order to address the weaknesses and challenges with regard to various laws, structural weaknesses and administrative challenges, economic analysts said.

It is important to ensure continued preferential market access facility, particularly in the European market, which is the largest export market in Bangladesh.

Becoming eligible for the European Union’s (EU) GSP+ scheme is one way to ensure that the exports from Bangladesh to the EU destination do not suffer a major setback in the post-graduation period.

Gaining market access through the GSP+ scheme requires Bangladesh to comply with twenty-seven international conventions. Among them, 15 of which are related to human rights and the labour standards of ILO. CPD and Network Matters unveiled a joint study on ‘’EU’s EBA & Prospect of GSP+ for Bangladesh: Addressing challenges related to Labour Laws and Rights’’ at the event.

The study reviewed the scope of legal reforms in the monitoring and application of relevant criteria for GSP+ benefits in Bangladesh and to meet all the requirements of GSP+ related to labour standards, Dr Fahmida Khatun, Executive Director, CPD stated

In his keynote, Dr Khondaker Golam Moazzem, Research Director, CPD said, the European Union's GSP facility provides a business structure that businesses and governments must ensure sustainable development, in addition to protecting and promoting human rights and labour rights.

There are many opportunities to work with the Labour Act to get GSP+ benefit after graduating from LDC category, he noted.

“There is an opportunity to improve the labour laws and rights and undertake necessary reforms, including child labour, trade union laws, and alternative dispute resolution,” he believes.

Rensje Teerink, Ambassador, European Union Delegation to Bangladesh and Tuomo Poutiainen, Country Director, ILO Country Office, Dhaka also joined the virtual dialogue as Guests of Honour.

According to the EU Ambassador, Bangladesh needs to re-brand itself as a safe and labour-respectful country. This will not only ensure GSP+ benefits for the country but also help in the overall development of the workers. Poutiainen, on the other hand, focused on increasing institutional capacity and he felt the need to continue dialogues on labour law and rights. 

Referring to the prevalence of informal sector in the country, Kamran T Rahman, president, Bangladesh Employers’ Federation (BEF) said that implementation of labour laws in informal sector is the biggest challenge.

Md Bellal Hossain Sheikh, Director, Department of Labour, Ministry of Labour and Employment (MoLE), Government of Bangladesh informed that data related to trade unions and dispute resolution will be available soon.

Razequzzaman Ratan, general secretary, Socialist Labour Front, thinks that labour laws should be enforced in the interest of the development of the country and the development of the workers, not just under external pressure. Arshad Jamal, Vice President, BGMEA suggested that the drafting of labour laws should be based on the domestic context. However, Chowdhury Ashiqul Alam, secretary general, Bangladesh Trade Union Sangha, thinks that due to the global connectivity, labour laws need to be developed in tandem with domestic and international stakeholders.

Mohammad Hatem, first vice-president, Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA), as another discussant in the dialogue said that, buyers need to play a more responsible role.

In order to comply with global labour laws, buyers need to ensure global prices that will help to improve workers’ livelihood, he stressed.

Moderating the event, Prof Mustafizur Rahman, Distinguished Fellow, CPD, talked about the importance of ensuring labour laws and rights through social dialogue with all concerned stakeholders. He also noted that structural weaknesses and administrative challenges need special attention.

The dialogue also discussed, inclusion of workplace harassment issues in the legal framework; addressing the forced labour issue properly (including adequate punishments in labour law); addressing the concerns of the ILO committee of experts and improvement of the overall monitoring and implementation framework of decent work in Bangladesh.

Hopefully, there will be adequate improvements in the areas of decent work and the related legal framework so that Bangladesh can become eligible for the GSP+ scheme. A time-bound action plan with specific responsibilities for concerned public institutions is urgently required to set in order necessary changes. Furthermore, the necessary technical support needs to be extended by the development partners and international organisations in this regard.