Boosting workers’ productivity

A recent ILO report emphasised that 20 to 35 per cent of the labour force in Bangladesh engage in at least 50 hours of work per week. This is reflective of the tenacity of the workers in this country. The contribution of workers is a very big input in the production processes. Higher output and its benefits are the results of a motivated work-force ready to work for long periods. From all of these perspectives, Bangladesh is a country that has been blessed with a large work force and also their diligence.
However, in today’s world, economic progress is not only having a huge number of willing workers although this can be an advantage in lowering wage costs. Only having an abundance of workers does not guarantee competitiveness specially in the vital export-oriented industries. Bangladeshi entrepreneurs will also need to increase the ‘ productivity’ of their workers to retain and expand market shares in the fierce international competition. Greater quality output from trained workers do translate into more competitiveness. The significance of this crucial factor must be adequately grasped by our entrepreneurs specially in the readymade garments (RMG) sector which is the country’s biggest foreign currency earner.
It is seen that workers in India and China produce more in lesser time and produce better quality apparels in comparison to their counterparts in Bangladeshi readymade garments (RMG) industries. Thus, the owners of such industries in those countries have become more competitive in terms of producing more, producing more with less time and also making higher quality goods. This has been possible because the operators of these industries in those countries took pains to improve the productivity of their workers.
It seems that Bangladeshi entrepreneurs in general are lagging behind in both understanding these productivity issues and training up their workers adequately to these ends . It is not that all industries have been oblivious to this need. Some foreign owned and operated enterprises as well as ones of local origin are taking care to increase workers’ productivity. But it is imperative for such practices to spread across the gamut of industries in the country.
Workers in different sectors in Bangladesh should be taken into confidence and explained how their higher productivity and efficiency in all respects are the prerequisites to meeting their demands for higher wages and other benefits. They should then be obliged to agree to a participatory framework in which management would attempt to systematically improve their productivity and efficiency linking any rise in income for the workers to attaining of the productivity goals. Government, on its part, ought to much increase the number of training and skill centres and run them either free or at nominal costs for those who would train in them. In many countries of the world, government makes a major contribution in training up potential workers for both supplying the work-force and to increase the productive capacities of workers.
Wages and productivity are coterminous and need to be made mutually reinforcing for self-sustaining growth. It is here that the trade union and the employers should come to an understanding for the sake of mutual benefit. The trade unions need to be persuaded to realize the importance of developing a work culture among the workers and be alert to new methods and processes that would mean larger productivity and eventually more income and employment. The search should be for an ‘efficiency wage’ based on the notion that there is a relationship between relative wage levels and workers’ productivity.