Around 57 percent of the survivors of the Rana Plaza building collapse -- the deadliest industrial disaster in the country's history -- have remained unemployed during the pandemic, a study finds.
Meanwhile, around 92 percent of them did not get any support from the government during the pandemic, according to a survey done by ActionAid Bangladesh.
Some of the respondents received food and health and hygiene material support from local-level groups and individuals, it said.
The findings of the survey were revealed yesterday at a virtual dialogue on "Covid-19: Challenges for the Rana Plaza Tragedy Survivors" organised by the ActionAid, marking the eighth year of the Rana Plaza disaster in Savar on April 24 in 2013 that left at least 1,138 people dead and 2,500 injured.
The physical and mental states of Rana Plaza survivors have not improved significantly and their overall quality of life has not enhanced much in the last eight years, the survey concluded.
Their conditions instead have become more miserable as the majority of them have been jobless, while the income of most of the employed survivors has decreased drastically due to Covid-19 induced economic fallout, according to the study.
The survey was conducted on 200 survivors, 63 percent of whom were female.
Of the employed survivors, 43 percent of them are engaged in various types of wages and self-employment where the household income of 37.5 percent is between Tk 5,001 and Tk 10,300. The majority of survivors have an average expenditure of over TK 10,000, it said.
As per the survey, the physical conditions of 14 percent of the survivor are worsening and they have reported that they are still bearing with headaches, pain in arms, legs and their backs.
Besides, a total of 4.5 percent survivors have improved their mental health than last year, it said.
After the devastating Rana Plaza collapse, many could not return to work due to physical and mental health conditions, the study said.
Speaking as the chief guest at the event, Lawmaker Shirin Akhter said the labour law should be implemented properly, while compensation laws need to be enacted.
Tuomo Poutiainen, country director of the International Labour Organisation, said, "There is a requirement to improve security and governance on labour issues and this needs institutional change. We have to create a culture of health safety for workers in factories and the government needs to enact legislation to ensure this."
He also called for a new way of thinking about social security during the Covid-19 pandemic to creating new jobs.
Dr Khondokar Golam Moazzem, research director of Centre for Policy Dialogue, said since the Rana Plaza collapse, there has been no positive change in the victims' lives. Despite some financial assistance, the process of reintegration of injured workers in the formal sector has not been introduced. They have to be brought under the reintegration process, he said.
He called for the distribution of free health cards from the Rana Plaza Trust Fund to ensure the medical treatment of injured workers. He also proposed the provision of health insurance for the survivors.
It is disappointing that Bangladesh has yet to come up with an effective employment scheme although many years of Rana Plaza collapse have passed, said Werner Lange, cluster coordinator, textile and leather of GIZ. He also emphasised introducing the Employment Injury Insurance (EII) Scheme for workers.
Dr Hameeda Hossain, convener, Sramik Nirapotta Forum, urged the authorities concerned to establish a monument in the memory of the deceased workers. She also called for ensuring the safety of workers by introducing insurance schemes.
Stating that about 1,000 workers die in various accidents in the country every year, Rajekuzzaman Ratan, general secretary of Somajtantrik Sramik Front, said the social security project needs to be implemented.
While moderating the virtual dialogue, Farah Kabir, country director of ActionAid Bangladesh, said, "Even in eight years, the conditions of significant surviving workers are not satisfactory… We have to come out of the colonial mentality and fulfil the just demands of the workers."
Accidents like the Rana Plaza collapse could happen again and that is why everyone should be made aware of insurance schemes, self-development skills or special fund formation and emergency activities, she said.
Tazul Islam, senior sustainability coordinator of s Oliver and Salahuddin Bablu, business editor of SATV, also spoke among others in the virtual dialogue.