Bangladesh: Female employment falling in cities in contrast to rural areas

The Daily Star

The Daily Star

The Daily StarThe number of women working in urban Bangladesh has been declining since 2010, but it is the opposite in the case of rural women, according to a report released on Saturday.

In 2010, the urban female participation rate was 34.5 percent, which came down to 31 percent in 2017.

In contrast, in rural Bangladesh the rate rose to 38.6 percent from 36.4 percent, according to the report “Employment, Labor Force Participation and Education: Toward Gender Equality in Bangladesh.”

The Center for Development and Employment Research (CDER) and the FES (Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung), Bangladesh launched the report at an event held at Dhaka’s Brac Center Inn.

The report attributed the declining participation of urban women to the lack of high-paying jobs and self-employment opportunities, and discouragement by the high unemployment rate among young educated women.

This phenomenon stands in contrast to the common notion that development and modernity lead to women’s employment, said Rushidan Rahman, executive chairperson of CDER. A number of factors have contributed to the decline in urban women’s participation.

“These are raising children, higher income of husband, social stigma, etc.”

Rural women’s participation rate may have risen due to expansion of the livestock industry and other activities based on microfinance, which depend mostly on female labor, she added. Generating nonfarm self-employment requires skill and financial investment. But women barely have access to finance in urban areas.

Moreover, a large majority of male workers are engaged in paid employment and therefore the scope of joint engagement of men and women is rather limited in urban areas, the report said.

The lack of availability of sufficient jobs suitable for women and high unemployment among them may have acted as a discouraging factor and that may reduce the labor force participation.

The youth male unemployment rate is 8.3 percent in 2017, whereas it is 15 percent for women.

Overall women’s participation in the labor force has been hovering around the 36 percent mark in the last seven years, though the participation rate increased to 36.3 percent from 23.9 percent during 2000-2017.

“There is no need to get frustrated about the lower participation rate of women because we have made a lot of progress in gender equality in the recent past,” said Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad, chairman of Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation. Once, women only worked at home, but now they work both inside and outside of the house.

“That does not mean we have not seen setbacks in reducing gender inequality.”

Women need higher education rather than only primary or secondary education because female unemployment among the higher educated is very low.

A strategic approach is needed to know which training is needed for employees to keep up with future technologies.

Along with it, the government needs to focus on social capital and ensuring human rights for men and women, he added. Violence against women is one of the reasons behind the lowering female participation rate, said Pratima Pal Mojumdar, president of Karmojibi Nari.

On the other hand, mechanization in the industrial sector reduces the need for labor, which ultimately lowers the female participation rate, she added.

Reducing early marriage and easing of child-care responsibilities deserve policy support, the report said.

Increase in tertiary education and need-based skills training are needed, too. Tina Marie Blohm, resident representative of FES Bangladesh; Hannana Begum, an economist; Md Shanawez Hossain, research fellow at the BRAC Institute of Governance and Development; and Mohammad Harunur Rashid Bhuyan, research fellow at BIDS, also spoke.Speech

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