‘Living wage’ should be at least Tk 52k
A working person in Bangladesh should earn at least Tk 51,994.51 monthly, as a "living wage", to be able to support a family, said the Asia Floor Wage Alliance (AFWA) in an online discussion yesterday.
The AFWA, founded in 2007, is an Asian labour-led global labour and social alliance across garment-producing countries (such as Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Sri Lanka) and consumer regions (USA and Europe) for addressing poverty-level wages, gender discriminations, and freedom of association in global garment production networks.
It came up with this figure using the theory that a worker needs to be able to support themselves and two other "consumption units", where one unit is one adult or two children
A living wage is one that is high enough to maintain a normal standard of living.
The Alliance stressed on the fact that a worker needs a wage that not only meets the individual's basic needs but also that of their family, taking into account that one family could have a single earning member.
A family of three adults, or two adults and two children, would need to spend at least Tk 40,442 per month, said the platform.
To understand the pattern of income and consumption expenditure, AFWA spoke to 300 RMG workers from 63 factories.
They found that while a little more than half of their families had two earning members, as much as 40 percent of the respondents had families with 4-6 members.
The researchers found one family's income to be Tk 24,137, which is less than half of what the family would need for food and non-food expenditures.
The family ends up having to spend Tk 24,373 per month.
"The total expenditure of a family is higher than their income, even where there are two earners in the family working in garment industry," said Md Arifur Rahman, country coordinator of AFWA.
Considering this, it is seen that an RMG worker consumes on average only 1,950 kilocalories.
This is significantly below the poverty-line food-consumption standard of 2,122 kCal, calculated by the country's own Household Income and Expenditure Survey.
"These figures show the unsustainability of the current wage structure in Bangladesh's garment industry and the persistent debt cycle it forces workers into," said Rahman.
Taking into consideration the sheer amount of physical activity a worker must do per day, the platform surmised that a family would need 9,000 kCal a day.
With that into account, the platform tallied the amount of cereal (like rice, flour), pulses, animal protein, vegetables, fruits, oils, spices, and cooked/packed meals that a family would consume over a month.
It also tallied the monthly non-food expenditures of a family, like education, clothing, shoes, entertainment and travel, health expenditure and household consumables.
"Insufficient wages mean that a worker has less money [than what is needed] to feed themselves a nutritious diet and have enough meals per day.
"This also means that their children have to drop out of school and join a job to supplement their parents' incomes," AFWA said in a press release.