Assessing the Impact of Covid-19 on Women Garments Factory Workers in Bangladesh

LightCastle Analytics Wing
February 10, 2022
Assessing the Impact of Covid-19 on Women Garments Factory Workers in Bangladesh

The Opportunity

The Ready-Made Garments (RMG) sector in Bangladesh is an important pillar of economic growth and development and has been responsible for bolstering female labor force participation rates and foreign currency reserves. Although marred by hazardous catastrophes in 2010-2016, it has made rapid progress in improving safety standards and working conditions for the labor force, of which more than 60% are female. However, as with other sectors of the economy, the RMG sector faced a series of unexpected blows from the COVID-19 pandemic, in the form of demand fluctuations, supply chain challenges, adjustments for public health measures, etc. As expected, these impediments may have hindered the RMG sector’s export earnings since March 2020 and impacted the workforce. While the impact on export earnings is widely discussed, it is also important to evaluate the effect on RMG workers, especially female workers, given the importance of the RMG Industry to Bangladesh’s female workforce.

CARE Bangladesh, therefore, designed this study to evaluate the impact of COVID-19 on female workers, especially in the area of livelihood, health, psychological and social well-being, position in the family, and social status, in the short to medium term. LightCastle Partners was entrusted as the local research partner to analyze the impact of COVID-19, identify the challenges of protection of marginalized urban communities, and suggest recommendations to build the resilience of women working in the garment factories of Bangladesh.

Our Approach

The broad objectives of the study were to examine the gaps and myths in the understanding of RMG workers, the priority of marginalized communities and workers particularly for women and girls in recent vaccination plans, and the challenges of protection of marginalized urban communities, particularly women and girls. In addition, LightCastle was expected to make policy recommendations to protect and prevent COVID-19 in densely populated urban areas inhabited by formal and informal workers, particularly for women and girls looking into good practices of Bangladesh in earlier situations and other countries.

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In light of the above objectives, LightCastle Partners deployed a robust mixed-method approach, consisting of in-depth secondary research, quantitative surveys, and qualitative interviews of female RMG workers. Primary research consisted of Focus Group Discussions (FGDs),  KIIs, and a Household Survey, with a sample size of 415. The primary research was carried out in areas with high concentrations of resident RMG workers: Narayanganj, Gazipur and Savar, and Ashulia (in Dhaka Division). 

The qualitative and quantitative insights were then combined with additional primary data to generate an understanding of the extent of COVID-19 infection and its subsequent impact in the working areas. The understanding was then used to develop recommendations on services needed before 100% vaccination rates in working areas. 

The Future

With the findings from the study, LightCastle enabled CARE Bangladesh to assess the current status of garment workers, particularly women and girls whose life and livelihood was impacted by COVID-19. In addition, the LightCastle team has provided strategic recommendations, such as collaborating with relevant Public Health Departments and RMG employers to roll out on-site vaccination programs and support, establishing day-care centers in collaboration with NGOs, and designing interventions to increase access to testing and treatment. Stakeholders such as public, private, and development sector players can initiate these strategies to empower female RMG workers of Bangladesh, amid the changes brought about by the pandemic. 

WRITTEN BY: LightCastle Analytics Wing

At LightCastle, we take a systemic and data-driven approach to create opportunities for growth and impact. We are an international management consulting firm which creates systemic and data-driven opportunities for growth and impact in emerging markets. By collaborating with development partners and leveraging the power of the private sector, we strive to boost economies, inspire businesses, and change lives at scale.

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