The government and others concerned should focus more on women empowerment to ensure sustainable development and good governance, experts said.
In doing so, women should be given more employment opportunities in both public and private sectors, with an amicable working environment and safety in place, they said at a discussion organised on Sunday by South Asian Network on Economic Modeling (SANEM) and World Vision Bangladesh.
A study report was presented there on economic empowerment of women in Bangladesh.
Referring to the labour force surveys by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, it said men's participation in wage employment went from 40% to 46.1% to 42.6% from 2005 to 2010 to 2016 while women's participation changed from 23.9% to 18.5% to 31.2% over the same period.
About 50.4% men were self-employed in 2005 while self-employed women were 16% at that time. In 2010, the figure was 47.7% of men and 25.3% of women, which increased to 52.5% of men and 39.2% of women in 2016.
As unpaid family workers, women have had higher participation than men all along. In 2005, only 9.7% men and 60% women did household chores, while the figures came down to 4.2% of men and 29% of women in 2016.
On increasing women participation in the labour force, Dr Sayema Haque Bidisha, research director of SANEM, said the government would have to play the main role to encourage more women to participate in economic activities. At the same time, major players in the private sector should come forward.
Effective measures should be taken to stop sexual harassment of women at workplaces and to provide them with safe transport facilities, Bidisha said.
Moreover, social awareness should be raised about women empowerment and actions taken to boost women's financial strength.
Mosammat Nasima Begum, member (secretary), Socio Economic Infrastructure Division of the planning ministry, said the government and the private sector should work in coordination to help women become financially independent.
She pointed out that the private sector still does not implement six-month maternity leave though women in public services are enjoying the entitlement.
Laila Farzana, of Unilever Bangladesh, said women's participation had risen in the private sector, while emphasizing on social awareness.
"Empowering women does not mean showing kindness to them. It is their right. There is no alternative to increasing women's participation [in the labour force] for economic development," said Executive Director of SANEM Selim Raihan.