A recent study — to assess the impact of Covid-19 on economic, social, and physical health of readymade garment (RMG) workers in Bangladesh — shows that the RMG workers are amongst the worst hit by this pandemic.
A total of 88 respondents (44 females and 44 males), representing seven factories from three clusters (Gazipur, Narayanganj, and Mymensingh), were interviewed.
The study was conducted by Innovision Consulting while WebAble Impact collaborated on this project for outreach and data visualisation, according to a press release on Wednesday.
Following the study data, around 15 percent of the RMG workers do not have any cash in hand to support their household expenses. The remainder of those who do can support their families for only 16 more days (as of April 9, 2020), according to the press release.
About 57 percent of the respondents have another income earner in their households. Unfortunately, 92 percent of them no longer have access to that additional source of income.
About 27 percent of the RMG workers have reduced their food expenses. As a result, the nutrition level of RMG workers and their families is at stake.
The study also reveals that 20 percent respondents have reduced purchases of essential proteins. If salaries for May are not paid, this amount may increase to 29 percent.
It is for the compromise they have had to make on their regular expenses. Apparently, female workers have readjusted food expenses more (33 percent) than the male workers (21 percent).
This pandemic has not only affected the workers themselves but also their relatives living in villages.
The study says, 69 percent of the respondents - who used to send money back home - have stopped doing so. Women appear to be struggling more than men in this case.
Because, 57 percent of them borrowed money to cope with the aftermaths of the pandemic. In contrast, only 40 percent male workers did the same.
In a situation where these people are fighting hard to survive one day at a time, their secondary needs have taken a back seat.
As per the study, 43 percent of the RMG workers have stopped purchasing mobile credit; this amount may increase to 68 percent if salaries for May are not paid.
Low savings and cash in hand will push them to borrow money or sell assets to meet basic expenses, the study found.
But the worst is yet to come. Around 80 percent of the workers do not have any savings.
The monthly savings among the rest is Tk1,918 (on average). Therefore, 74 percent respondents intend to borrow from neighbours, friends, and family.
This informal credit may have an adverse effect on food security and general wellbeing in the long run.
The RMG workers have already started to accumulate debt burdens. Of them, 76 percent have stopped paying loans and 74 percent have stopped paying rent.
If the government pays the RMG workers through mobile wallets, 67 percent workers may not be able to access it since they receive salaries in cash.
Further, 27 percent workers would have to open a mobile wallet to become eligible for cash relief. If they are unemployed or unpaid, the RMG workers will need TK1,163 per month per family member as cash relief for basic food.
Innovision Consulting and WebAble Impact representatives said they would conduct further studies to follow-up on this rapid survey and engage in dialogue with experts in the upcoming days, the statement reads.