A survey shows that 82 percent of garment workers have been paid through some sort of digital channels in May.
The workers were paid through bKash, Rocket, Nagad, or bank transfer in the wake of a nationwide shutdown enforced to stem the coronavirus outbreak.
In April, only 28 percent of workers were paid digitally. This represents a massive shift in payments from cash to digital within the space of a month.
Both women and men reported being paid digitally at about the same rate—82 percent and 84 percent respectively.
The survey was conducted in mid-May by researchers working for a local research institute in Bangladesh, the South Asian Network on Economic Modeling, and a US-based non-governmental organisation, Microfinance Opportunities.
The survey found that 67 percent of workers were paid as of May 16. There are some differences in the experiences of male and female workers during the May payment cycle, with 64 percent of female workers reporting being paid while the percentage of male workers is 74.
Women were less likely to have withdrawn the cash from their accounts immediately after they had been paid. 84 percent of women reported withdrawing their salary from their accounts immediately in comparison to 93 percent of men.
Despite the large number of workers being paid digitally, many for the first time, the process went smoothly for most of them.
Some 95 percent were able to cash out their payment at an ATM booth or agent on their first try and 78 percent waited in line for less than 10 minutes to cash out.
The researchers surveyed 1,384 workers in the RMG sector in Bangladesh by telephone. The workers and the researchers had previously participated in the Garment Worker Diaries study, which collected data from 1,300 workers throughout 2019 and until the end of January 2020.
The workers are employed in factories spread across the five main industrial areas – Chattogram, Dhaka city, Gazipur, Narayanganj, and Savar. Almost three-quarters of them are women.
Though the sample over-represents women, it can be considered to be roughly representative of workers in the sector as a whole.