Despite women's participation in the labour market on the rise in the county, their earnings potential has remained untapped yet, Economists and researchers have said.
"Bangladesh has an opportunity to substantially raise the total amount of earnings by women, but the potential remains largely untapped," said Maria Eugenia Genoni, a foreign researcher, at a programme organised by the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS) in the capital Friday.
Titled "Income and Employment Diagnostics and Drivers," the event in the three-day annual conference of the BIDS discussed different aspects of the country's employment situations.
"Of the working women, around 60% are contributing to the agricultural sector, with a large proportion taking care of livestock or engaged in unpaid agricultural activities," she added.
The economist said the western part of the country was mostly dependent on agriculture. However, increasing off-farm manufacturing activities around Dhaka and Chittagong influences rural income opportunities country-wide, she believes.
Maria put five recommendations for raising rural incomes – bringing an overhaul in agricultural policies, improving water management, increasing quality of electricity, and road accessibility, making the rural markets work better, addressing gender norms and expanding the quality of skills and extension services.
Gladys Lopez-Acevedo, another researcher who attended the conference, believes
increasing access to education for the female workers, raising the number of female supervisors in different sectors particularly in RMG, promoting women participation in export-oriented and manufacturing sectors would improve the situation.
The researchers also identified three barriers to career development in Bangladesh – low demand for services, low educational level, and low female employment.
Presenting a paper titled "How selling online is affecting informal firms in South Asia", researcher Maurizio Bussolo said, "When an organisation joins an online platform its sale expands as online selling can access more customers. It learns to adopt new or improved business practices and technologies, for better access to finance and flexibility in balancing home and work life."
He said, "Digital technologies affect economic activity, reducing costs and barriers related to search, replication, transportation, tracking, and verification. It also reduces matching and verification costs and facilitates the implementation of management practices."
Presenting a research paper styled "Women's employment and safety perceptions: Evidence from low-income neighbourhoods of Dhaka", World Bank's researcher Tanima Ahmed said, "In areas of Dhaka city where low-income people live, 31% women feel unsafe outside their homes while the remaining 69% women feel safe. In the same area, 98% of men feel safe outside the home."
Their study found that women of all ages feel insecure outside the home. But as they get older, they start to feel safe.
Their research shows that 61% of economically active women feel safe outside the home. But among the women who work in garments, only 19% feel safe. In doing this research, we have seen that only highly educated women in society report harassment.
Session Chair SR Osmani, professor of Development Economics of the University of Ulster in the United Kingdom, said all these issues are related to education; so, we need to ensure the quality of education and the access to education for all, especially for the women.