Widening economic opportunities for women

Publish: 3:30 PM, November 3, 2018 | Update: 3:30:PM, November 3, 2018

The last available population data on Bangladesh puts the number of males in the population at 69.1 per cent and females at 65.7 per cent. Thus, the population is divided almost half and half between males and females. This knowledge should be sufficient to indicate why selective efforts are necessary to integrate the nearly half of the female population of the country to the job market to boost the GDP and raise income.
Keeping the women restricted to only unpaid household activities means a huge denial of their work output to the national economy that could otherwise substantially raise the country’s total GDP and hence per capita GDP leading to a positive change in the poverty situation.
But females continue to be exploited in Bangladesh , generally, from discriminations at work places . A report sometime ago quoted an International LabourOrganisation (ILO) report that a typical female factory worker earns on average 21 per cent less than her male counterpart in Bangladesh. The report then went on to say that work place discrimination is seen more at menial jobs than at higher paying white collar jobs requiring higher education and expertise.
But the menial female workers are far greater in number than the office workers and more and more females are breaking traditional restrictions and seeking and getting jobs that even include hard ones such as brick breaking, assisting in construction works, etc. They are joining the labour force from both a desire to supplement their income to take care of themselves as well as their families. Female work outside the homes in poor families can mean invaluable supports in contributing towards the family’s food budget, rents, child rearing and other costs.
Thus, it is very undesirable and a case of gross inequity if they are paid notably lesser amounts for works which are the same done by their male co-workers. If there are is no legislation to prevent such work-place discrimination, then the same needs to be introduced at the earliest. Not only the introduction of such a law , its enforcement at all levels will hold the key to its success. Even publicities are required to make the employers conscious of their duty and obligation to pay the female workers equally for the same type and amount of works done by male workers.
The position of women, their expected contribution to the national economy, their desirable social and family roles, all of these things and more need to change under clear cut policies formed to that end and pursued sincerely. It must be realized that there are formidable social and so called religious barriers to be overcome for women to get their due and make a far bigger contribution to the economy. The traditional view in Bangladesh society is that the best place for a woman is within the confines of her home.
This is an antithesis of the functioning of a modern economy that invites paid work in different sectors of the economy by both males and females to maximise production, income and consumption. But untenable cultural and religious traditions still tend to discourage females from working outside their homes in this country. Then, there is the tendency to marry off girls in their teens specially among the poor that destroy their aspirations for education and unemployment by imposing on them early motherhood and household chores. Thus, these socio-cultural hurdles to females coming into the mainstream of employment in the country need to be crossed with the building of widespread social awareness and formation and execution of appropriate governmental policies.