The Ready-Made Garments (RMG) sector is one of the major contributors to the economy of Bangladesh. It accounts for more than 80 per cent of the country's total export earnings and employs more than 4 million workers, most of whom are women. The health and wellbeing of the workers are essential for their personal and professional development. When workers are healthy, they can work more efficiently, be more productive, and have a better quality of life.
However, despite the sector's contribution to the country's economy, the workers' healthcare in the RMG sector is a major concern. The RMG sector is known for its poor working conditions, low wages, and long working hours. Workers in this sector often have to work in unsafe and hazardous environments, which can lead to various health problems. Many workers suffer from respiratory problems, skin diseases, and other occupational health hazards due to exposure to chemicals and other harmful substances.
Moreover, the lack of access to proper healthcare facilities and services further exacerbates the workers' health problems. Many workers cannot afford to seek medical attention due to low wages, and even if they do, the quality of healthcare services they receive is often inadequate. The RMG factories themselves do not have proper healthcare facilities, and there is no provision for regular health check-ups for the workers.
The Covid-19 pandemic has further exposed the vulnerabilities of the workers' healthcare in the RMG sector. The pandemic has affected millions of workers in the sector, with many losing their jobs and struggling to make ends meet. The workers who still have their jobs have to work in overcrowded and poorly ventilated factories which increase their risk of contracting the virus. The lack of proper healthcare facilities and services has also made it difficult for workers to access testing and treatment for Covid-19.
In a report published at The Business Post on March 13 that stated according to BGMEA, RMG sector committed to ensuring workers’ healthcare.
BGMEA President Faruque Hassan said that the ready-made garment (RMG) industry of Bangladesh is committed to ensuring a safer and healthier environment for workers, especially women, who are at the heart of the industry. Their proactive engagement with the government of Bangladesh and UNICEF in the Mothers@Work project is an example of how the industry is trying to improve the healthcare of women workers in the sector.
The government however should implement regulations that require regular health check-ups for workers in the RMG sector. This will help identify health problems at an early stage and prevent them from becoming more serious. The government can also work with NGOs and other stakeholders to provide health education and awareness programmes for workers, which will empower them to take better care of their health and prevent occupational health hazards.
The government should ensure that workers in the RMG sector have access to affordable healthcare services. This can be done by establishing healthcare facilities in the areas where RMG factories are located and providing subsidies or tax incentives to healthcare providers to offer their services at affordable rates.
The international community can provide financial and technical assistance to support the establishment of healthcare facilities and services for workers in the sector. International organizations can also provide technical support for the development of policies and regulations that protect the workers' health and safety.
The workers' healthcare in the RMG sector is a critical issue that needs urgent attention. The government and other stakeholders must take immediate action to improve the workers' access to healthcare facilities and services. By doing so, they will not only protect the workers' health and wellbeing but also contribute to the overall development of the RMG sector and the economy of Bangladesh.