Factors like job nature, heavy workload and owners’ atypical behaviour are forcing garment workers to retire after a certain age, especially after 35, according to industry insiders.
Though the booming ready-made garment (RMG) sector is suffering from skilled manpower shortages, they said, the industry has also failed to retain skilled staff after a certain period.
Two recent studies done by Awaj Foundation and Karmajibi Nari also portrayed similar pictures in the poorly-regulated apparel sector.
Karmajibi Nari conducted ‘Monitoring Work and Working Condition of Women Employed in Readymade Garment Industries of Bangladesh’ on 3,014 workers from 327 factories based in Dhaka, Gazipur and Narayanganj.
About 86 percent of those surveyed was aged between 18 and 35 years and five percent below 18. Only 9.0 percent was aged over 35, it revealed.
It showed that average work experience in the apparel sector is not so long, only 4.96 years.
The largest section, 41.4 percent, has one to three years’ experience, 26.7 percent has four to six years and 19.6 percent seven to 10 years.
Only 8.4 percent workers have more than ten years of work experience in the largest foreign currency earner.
Besides, 61.7 percent of the women surveyed have experience in multiple factories in their total working life in RMG, the Nari report revealed.
Of them, 35.2 percent has worked in two factories, 16.2 percent in three factories and 10.3 percent in four and more factories.
Conversely, 38.3 percent has worked in one factory.
The report identified multiple reasons behind factory changes like higher position and wage.
Female workers migrate to have a decent workplace, alongside increased workload or production pressure, night shift and staff behaviour.
According to Awaj Foundation’s ‘The Workers’ Voice Report 2019′, the 18-24 age group has fallen to 35 percent in 2019 compared to that of 47 percent in 2016.
It means factories employ more unskilled workers as assistants like helpers, thus affecting production level, quality and overall competitiveness.
Only 5.0 percent of those surveyed were aged between 40 and 54, suggesting a sign of stress and hard work weighing on older staffers.
On the other hand, women for the most part leave the industry citing domestic priorities as reasons.
The Awaj report is based on data from interviews with 447 workers made between September and December 2018.
Women leave garment industry earlier to engage in reproductive and care-giving work, which lead to men being more represented in older cohorts.
Male respondents were found relatively older than their female counterparts: 66 percent were aged between 25 and 39 as opposed to only 58 percent of females.
It also revealed that factories prefer to hire young women who are less likely to take sick leave and maternity benefits.
Constant pressure to raise productivity can be compensated more easily by younger workers who are still to face multiple strains at home and at work.
When asked, Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS) senior research fellow Nazneen Ahmed cited a recent study that also found 80 percent of workers aged between 24 and 30.
She blamed the nature of work that requires high concentration and hard labour, daily high target-oriented production while they do not get nutritive food to stay physically fit.
Moreover, female workers have to do household chores. As a result, they gradually loss work ability, Ms Ahmed uttered.
They also found that a number of workers join garment factories for a certain period with a plan to save a certain amount of money, she added.
To retain workers for more years, the researcher suggested that factories provide some nutritive food during work breaks, set rational and optimal daily production target with some rest time.
The government and factory owners should provide facilities like transport, low-cost housing, subsidised medicare and awareness of nutritive food consumption to improve their life style, Ms Ahmed observed.
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