06/08/2020, 14.19
BANGLADESH
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Some 70,000 garment workers lose their job because of the pandemic

by Sumon Corraya

Experts predict that by December 2020, over a million garment workers will lose their jobs. “I gave two months' wages and shut my factories,” a Catholic business man said. “Now I am in trouble. I have a lot of bank loans, and I don't know how I can overcome this situation.”

Dhaka (AsiaNews) - Bangladesh is the world’s second largest garment producer after China. But as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, thousands of people in the sector lost their jobs.

"According to our information, about 70,000 people lost their jobs during the coronavirus pandemic, laid off by their employers,” said Joly Talukder, secretary general of Garment Workers' Trade Union Centre.

Since the onset of the worldwide coronavirus crisis, the Bangladesh government has undertaken several initiatives, providing incentives to the garment industry.

Global buyers’ organizations provided hope that they would stand by garment workers so that they didn't lose their jobs. But the reality is different. Workers have lost their jobs. Experts expect the garment sector to lose a million jobs by December 2020.

At the start of the coronavirus pandemic, many garment factory owners couldn't keep their and word and began cutting jobs even though they had promised not to do so before May.

“The garment sector employs about four million workers, but most plants have no work because of the coronavirus,” said Mohammad Hatam, Senior Vice-President of Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA).

“If this situation persists, about 25 per cent of workers will lose their jobs in the future. In this sense, we can say that about a million people could lose their jobs. "

Bangladesh’s Department of Inspection of Factories and Establishments reports the loss of 18,000 jobs, but workers' rights groups say that the number is around 70,000 and will gradually increase if the pandemic goes on.

A Catholic businessman who doesn't want to give his name, told AsiaNews that he owns two factories, but after the coronavirus pandemic began, orders from a German buyer were cancelled.

“I gave two months' wages and I shut my factories,” he said. “Now I am in trouble. I have a lot of bank loans, and I don't know how I can overcome this situation.”

He made garments for young people and was successful. He was one of a number of Christian garment businessmen. Others are in the same situation.

Worse off are workers who have already been laid off. “I haven't received a salary since April,” said one worker, Nazrul Islam, who worked for Savar in Dhaka. “Our factory is closed due for the lack of orders. Our employer told us that he could not pay us. We can’t find work. We don't know what to do.”

He is surviving thanks to help from an NGO in Savar. But he plans to go home to his village, Rajshahi, but there is no work there as well. So Nazrul is very worried.

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