May Day Greetings by Tuomo Poutiainen, ILO Country Director for Bangladesh

Statement | Dhaka, Bangladesh | 01 May 2021
On behalf of the International Labour Organization, I would like to convey our warm greetings on this historic day.

The May Day of 2021 was to be celebrated through a grand occasion in honour of the National anniversary of Bangladesh at 50. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world around us and sadly does not allow for such a celebrations.

In 2019, during the ILO’s centenary celebrations the member states convened around a joint declaration on the need to build a human centred Future of Work. The ILO with its tripartite structure and as the UN’s labour, employment and skills agency; is committed to promote these principles of Decent Work through promoting jobs and enterprise, guaranteeing rights at work and extending social protection and promoting social dialogue.

The current global public health pandemic has not only changed the way we live but also transformed the way we work impacting on our jobs and livelihood. Now more than ever before, as we emerge from this crises, and build back better, the focus on a human centred approach to safety, health and employment policies and practices should be adopted. This will allow people of Bangladesh to look to the future with renewed anticipation and hope of better times ahead.

In building back better, survival of businesses, protection of jobs and income and investing in recovery and enhanced social protection systems need to be the core building blocks.

The Government has made decent work and productive employment a core focus in its 8th 5-year plan. Women’s entry to labour market, equality and provision of modern skills and technical education systems are key, including through the promotion of SMEs. Emerging sectors such as Information and Communication Technology (ITC) and green and – blue economy will be in the future need attention.

Bangladesh has made tremendous progress to become a developing country even keeping positive economic growth during the COVID-19 situation. This graduation process is a testament of its resilient people and entrepreneurial spirit.

Looking forwards labour migration needs are changing including higher levels of skills that are required by destination countries. In addition to concerted efforts to build skills of migrants, issues of labour migration governance needs to be urgently attended to. That is increasing focus on fair, ethical and responsible recruitment practices and protection of workers while abroad.

Looking at skills - building contemporary skills and TVET ecosystem that is based on modern and forward looking Bangladesh National Qualification Framework (BNQF) system relying on National Technical and Vocational Qualification Framework (NTVQF) which is a central piece of modern skills and TVET system is the right focus.

Recently, the 8th year anniversary of the devastating Rana Plaza collapse was commemorated, followed by the celebration of international OSH day on the 28th April. These events are key reminders of the importance of labour market governance, labour rights and safe workplace. Today, we can note the significant progresses on workplace safety particularly to RMG sector that has taken place. However, we cannot stop with the RMG sector, going forward these advances also needs to be replicated in other sectors in Bangladesh. A culture of occupational safety and health needs to prevail in all sectors and workplaces.

Bangladesh ratified 29 ILO conventions just after the independence of Bangladesh and some other ILO conventions in different occasions. During this UN international year for the elimination of child labour, we look forwards to another positive milestone on advancing the process of the ratification of ILO Convention No.138 on Child Labour and Protocol No. 29 on Forced Labour. This would complete the ratifications of all eight fundamental conventions which are also treated as human rights conventions.

While notable progress has been made in relation to freedom of association and collective bargaining the recent incident at Banshkhali Power Plant; is a stark reminder that much more needs to be done to ensure decent work in all workplaces in Bangladesh, including through open social dialogue to resolve work related grievances. Inquiry to the incident, redress to those affected and recommendation for future are welcome.

ILO applauds the government decision to creating a new employment department under the Ministry of Labour and Employment. The COVID-19 has impacted severely on industries, entrepreneurs and workers including the return of significant number of migrant workers; we must during this May Labour Day look ahead together and work towards achieving a better future for all.

A contemporary employment strategy and services are clearly in the making. Special attention is needed to generate employment for youth and women; including for reintegration of migrant workers. Everyone in Bangladesh shares the same one labour market so we advocate for one labour market system for active jobs services to be developed together with private sector under one roof. Development of gender focused employment initiatives and addressing women’s care burden are also essential in this process.

Lastly on social protection: Social Protection is increasingly important area of focus where Government of Bangladesh has taken significant steps during COVID-19 pandemic. The implementation of comprehensive National Social Insurance Scheme (covering unemployment, accidents, sickness & maternity) as envisioned in National Social Security Strategy (NSSS 2015) is being advanced including setting-up of an Employment Injury Insurance System (EIIS).

This measure will truly advance protection of workers in case of injury and assist in their recovery and re-entry to work when possible and bring a modern employment insurance system to Bangladesh. ILO as a global leader in developing social protection systems is happy to assist to expand these efforts further with other development partners.

Work and experience of work is important to dignity and human condition. Let us all work together to make a better world of work Leaving No One Behind (LNOB).