International support targets safer workplaces and child labour reduction in Bangladesh

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International support targets safer workplaces and child labour reduction in Bangladesh

International collaboration aims to enhance safety, reduce child labour, and promote gender equality in the workplace

Staff Correspondent:


In Bangladesh, the Ministry of Labor and Employment has embarked on a significant initiative aimed at ensuring a safe working environment for both men and women while reducing child labour. This ambitious project, titled “Advancing Decent Work in Bangladesh,” is funded by the European Union, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Sweden under the Team Europe Initiative. With a budget of $24.7 million, the project is set to be implemented over the next four years to fulfil the labour sector reform commitments of the Bangladesh government.

The Ministry of Labor and Employment, in collaboration with the International Labor Organization (ILO), officially inaugurated the project at Le Meridien Hotel in the capital on Thursday. 

During the event, Nazrul Islam Chowdhury, State Minister for Labor and Employment, highlighted the progress made in labour practices, including updates to labour laws and improvements in the Department of Labor and factory inspections.

State Minister Nazrul Islam Chowdhury delivers a speech on labour reforms at the ‘Advancing Decent Work in Bangladesh’ project inauguration. – BM Photo

He emphasised the importance of creating a safe and resilient work environment for all workers.

 

“I believe that cooperation between the government and economic organisations will be crucial for reaching the project’s aims as we strive for a better workplace environment in Bangladesh. I am confident that, with our contribution, we will achieve significant improvements for Bangladeshi labourers,” Mr. Chowdhury stated.

Tuomo Poutiainen, Country Director for the ILO, underscored the importance of supporting workers with comprehensive coverage and promoting private sector development. He called for economic giants to be held accountable in their treatment of labourers.

“Recently, Bangladesh was ranked in the global position of social justice by the ILO, and they are on the path to graduating from the LDC status in the coming years. This initiative aims to advance the workplace environment in Bangladesh, aligning with the standards of many developed countries,” Mr. Poutiainen remarked.

In his address, Charles Whitely, EU Ambassador to Bangladesh, emphasised the critical nature of labour rights as fundamental human rights essential for creating decent workplace conditions. He noted the remarkable progress in decent work conditions, especially in the Ready-Made Garments (RMG) sector over the last six years.

“Through this project, we will collectively address workplace challenges in Bangladesh to foster economic growth,” Mr. Whitely added.

Alexandra Berg von Linde, Ambassador of Sweden, expressed Sweden’s commitment as part of Team Europe to improving the conditions of Bangladeshi workers. She highlighted the historical focus on promoting trade unions to enhance productivity and labour force welfare.

“Bangladesh has been one of the most dangerous countries for women facing workplace discrimination. This project will help reduce gender-based violations,” the Ambassador stressed.

Andres Karlsen, Chargé d’Affaires of Denmark, acknowledged the significant structural development in Bangladesh and emphasised the ongoing efforts to create a decent workplace for workers.

“Effective professional dialogues among experts and workers are paramount for creating this impact,” she said, expressing hope for flourishing workplace safety and labour rights in collaboration with the EU, particularly in the RMG sector.

Thijs Woudstra, Chargé d’Affaires a.i. of the Netherlands, reflected on Bangladesh’s 52-year journey towards effective workplace development, emphasising the fulfilment of labour rights as a reflection of human rights.

“Social dialogue is a key factor in improving workplace safety and social development, areas where Bangladesh has faced challenges. The implementation of social security schemes related to national security and the importance of tripartism are crucial for improving social safety,” Mr. Woudstra asserted.

Lilly Nichols, the Canadian High Commissioner, recalled the tragic Rana Plaza collapse that occurred ten years ago, stressing the need to focus on reducing workplace hazards, particularly for women.

“The final phase of this project, focusing on child labour reduction, is the most crucial and challenging,” she noted.

Jahangir Hossain, National Project Director of the “Advancing Decent Work in Bangladesh” project, called it a historic movement for labour reforms and rights in the country. He reaffirmed the commitment to fostering a resilient culture through the fulfilment of the project’s goals.

In a symbolic gesture, he requested all distinguished guests and officials to stand and make a loud slogan in the ballroom, advocating for the reduction of child labour in the workplace, as they celebrated International Child Labor Day on June 12 this year.

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