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Abstract

Since the 1980s, the ready–made garments (RMG) sector has opened up the door that allowed poor people, particularly women, to potentially lead a better life in Bangladesh. Economic globalisation has led to the growth of more employment opportunities for those women who are from the most disadvantaged sector of the society and the greatest beneficiaries of employment in the RMG sector as they have gained the power to earn. However, these women workers are also the most vulnerable to the weak legal provisions and compliance enforcement of this sector. Given the situation, the intention of the study is to highlight a bridge between group theories and institutional models through an advanced policy model-process to uphold the rights and enhance empowerment of women labourers in the RMG sector of Bangladesh. Using group theories, the study shows that decision making in the RMG sector has given high concentration to a few policy actors who are economic elites, such as entrepreneurs, and has given highest priority to achieving monetary returns. Evidence from research proves that the trade unions are virtually absent and therefore, women workers’ collective bargaining activities for addressing their grievances is limited (Mahmud & Kabeer, 2003, p.33). Moreover, literature suggests that the factory owners are vigilant to the threat of stakeholders like unions or employees’ associations and are largely responsible for causing unhealthy management-labour relations in RMG (Afsar, 2004, p. 142; Khan, 2004, p. 173). This has led to the violation of Bangladeshi women workers’ basic rights, including equal pay, job security and trade unionism, and labour standards such as health and safety issues. The study argues that, inadequate legislative enforcement, ‘for ensuring labour rights as well as codes of conduct’ largely ignore women workers’ voice and rights in the elite-led RMG sector of Bangladesh.

Note on the Author

Chowdhury Dilruba Shoma is a joint Director in the SME & Special Programs Department of Bangladesh Bank, The Central Bank of Bangladesh, Head Office, Dhaka, Bangladesh. She had been graduated from the Crawford School of Public Policy - ‘Master of Public Policy, specialising in Development Policy’ at ‘The Australian National University’ in 2012-2013. Acknowledgements: the author acknowledges sincere gratitude to Dr. Kate Wilson, former Academic Adviser Crawford School of Public Policy, ‘The Australian National University’ and Adjunct Associate Professor, University of Canberra for her direct supervision and kind suggestions in preparing the manuscript. All the views in the paper are author’s own and not by the Bangladesh Bank.

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