A third of garment workers in Bangladesh are the sole earners of their households, meaning they are susceptible to shocks such as the coronavirus pandemic that could completely wipe out their livelihoods and render them poor overnight, a new survey found.
Around 1,272 individuals employed by garment factories in Dhaka, Gazipur, Narayanganj, Savar and Chattogram participated in the survey of the South Asian Network on Economic Modeling (Sanem) and Microfinance Opportunities (MFO).
The survey is part of an ongoing assessment of the Covid-19 fallout on garment workers and aimed to assess how they and their dependents are faring amid the pandemic.
Among the workers interviewed, 34 per cent reported that they were the only household earner. It found 66 per cent of the respondents have at least one other earner living in their house.
These statistics from July are very similar to the results found in the same sector in March through June, the Sanem said in a press release.
Twenty-six per cent of women said that they were the only household earner compared to 60 per cent of their male counterparts.
Of the 66 per cent that reported having some form of financial assistance at home, 91 per cent said they had one other earner while 9 per cent reported having two and just 1 per cent had three or more.
As for the additional earners, 73 per cent of the female respondents said that the other wage earner was their spouse while the figure was 57 per cent in the case of male respondents.
The surveys being conducted by the Sanem and the MFO are part of a project titled Garment Worker Diaries, which collect regular, credible data on the work hours, income, expenses, and financial tool use of workers in the global apparel and textile supply chain in producing countries.
The project began in 2016 when Microfinance Opportunities, a global non-profit, in collaboration with local research firms in Bangladesh, India and Cambodia, collected data from 180 women in each country.
The goal of the project is to collect and disseminate Diaries data in five producing countries by 2021. It is expected that the data will result in a major improvement in the transparency of global supply chains.
The respondents were asked about the wages and work hours of other earners in the household in July.
The findings in July saw a continued drop in unemployment, increased work hours, and a narrowing of earning gap between women and men.
According to the findings, 96 per cent of other household earners went to work.
The median work hours for other household earners was 239. The median salary of the other household earners was Tk 10,000, up from Tk 9,000 in June.
The median salary for women was Tk 10,000 compared to Tk 9,000 for men, according to the press release.