Tuesday, 30 May, 2023

Majority of Rana Plaza survivors still remain unemployed: Study

  • Special Correspondent
  • 13 April, 2023 12:00 AM
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Around 54.5 percent of Rana Plaza building collapse survivors still remain unemployed, said a survey report.

According to the ActionAid Bangladesh study, despite a decline in the unemployment rate since 2014, a total of 54.5 percent of Rana Plaza survivors are currently unemployed.

Among them, 89 percent have been without work for the past five to eight years, while 5.5 percent have been unemployed for the last three to four years.

These findings highlight the ongoing challenges faced by the survivors in accessing sustainable employment opportunities and the need for continued efforts to improve their economic security, the report said.

The study was revealed in a multilogue titled “The Rana Plaza Experience: Tragedy to Transformation” held on the occasion of 10th anniversary of Rana Plaza tragedy in Dhaka on Wednesday.

Institute of Social Business (ISB) conducted the study on behalf of the ActionAid Bangladesh among 200 survivors and families of deceased workers affected by the Rana Plaza tragedy.

Among the respondents, 69.5 percent were women and 30.5 percent were men.

The findings highlight several key points related to the current condition of the survivors', including their current physical health status, psychosocial well-being, and financial status.

The study also finds that the key reason for those who are currently unemployed is their physical health conditions, and the number has fallen from 67 percent to 47 percent from last year.

Additionally, 21 percent of respondents report that they could not find a suitable job.

These findings suggest that physical health continues to be a significant barrier to employment for many survivors, emphasising the need for continued efforts to support their recovery and improve their access to employment opportunities.

The study says that the physical health status of the Rana Plaza incident

survivors has not shown any significant improvement.

The proportion of survivors claiming to be completely stable has decreased from 17 percent in 2014 to 7.5 percent in 2023, while the percentage of respondents whose health has deteriorated over the year increased from 9 percent to 22.5 percent during the same period.

More than one-third of the respondents (36.8 percent) mentioned they are suffering from back pain, while a quarter (24.6 percent) complained about suffering from headaches.

Other health problems include breathing problems, hand, and leg injuries, inability to stand and walk properly, vision and kidney problems.

In terms of psychosocial health, although the rate of people who felt fully recovered is now declining, the overall percentage of survivors claiming to be more or less stable has almost doubled.

However, despite the positive trend, there is still a significant proportion (29 percent) of traumatised survivors whose conditions are deteriorating, the report adds. Among the 29 percent of traumatised survivors, 57.8 percent of respondents are living in fear because of their experience of building collapse, while 28.9 percent complained of being tense about their health and safety.

The findings of the study also show that 36.3 percent of survivors, who have recovered from physical and mental health issues, are currently employed in garment factories.

In the previous year, the rate was 14.5 percent. These suggest that an increasing number of survivors are returning to work after overcoming health challenges, which could reflect positive developments in their overall well-being and ability to engage in employment.

The study additionally reveals that survivors' family income scenario has changed significantly compared to last year.

The monthly family income of half of the survivors was found to be (46.5 percent) Tk 10,001-15,000, while around 19.5 percent earn a monthly family income of Tk 15,001-20,000, and 11 percent get more than Tk 20,000 per month.

The study findings further indicate that the household income of the majority of respondents is insufficient to cover their family expenses.

Nearly half of the survivors (47 percent) reported a monthly expenditure of around Tk 15000.

Moreover, many respondents do not have any savings to rely on in case of unforeseen expenses, such as a health emergency.

Another 200 current garment workers were assessed in this study for safety situations in their factories. Most respondents were women (84.6 percent).

More than half of the respondents (52.2 percent) felt that the frequency of initiatives taken by factory management was inadequate. Also, a total of 93 percent of the respondents expressed concern about their health status and uncertainty about their ability to work in the long run.

Around 60 percent of the respondents highlighted several risks present in their factory, including machinery problems, the absence of fire safety measures, inadequate ventilation and lighting, as well as a lack of health safety measures.

Around 19.9 percent of the respondents report that their factories lack fire fighting equipment, while 23.4 percent state that emergency fire exits are not available.

Additionally, 20.9 percent of respondents mention that their factories do not have a medical centre, and a similar proportion (23.9 percent) indicated that there is no doctor or nurse available on-site.

In the multilogue session, ActionAid Bangladesh’s Country Director Farah Kabir said, “We conducted the study this year looking at the current conditions of Rana Plaza survivors. There have been changes, but many of them are suffering both physically and mentally.”

“The most important thing is they have not been able to find economic opportunities to move on. Rana plaza survivors need support to find alternative livelihood,” Farah Kabir said. 

Tuomo Poutiainen, Country Director of ILO Country Office for Bangladesh, said, “It is important to recognise the significant strides made in occupational safety and health in the garment industry following the Rana Plaza tragedy.”

“The transformation should serve as a model for all industries, emphasising the importance of creating a culture of safety where workers can freely express their concerns and employers’ proactive measures to address them.”

“Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the government to implement the policies and regulations to ensure the safety of all workers,” Tuomo Poutiainen added.