Bangladesh has made significant progress in women’s rights in recent years. It is currently the top performer in ensuring gender equality in South Asia and among the top five countries in the world in ensuring political empowerment of women.1 Women’s participation in the workforce increased by 35 per cent between 2008 and 2017, while male employment increased by 11 per cent. Despite that progress, women’s share of the labour market continues to be quite small—women still comprise less than 30 per cent of the total workforce in the country, and 56.9 per cent of women aged 15–65 years belong to the “not in education, employment or training” category.
The ready-made garments sector has been at the forefront of discussions regarding automation and the future of work in Bangladesh. It is not only the most important industrial sector in the country, accounting for more than 80 per cent of export earnings, it is also the largest formal sector employer of women in Bangladesh. Discussions of automation in the agriculture sector are less prominent in the public discourse, but such trends as increasing mechanization and introduction of genetically modified crops present challenges for women.
Rooted in her deep understanding of both the women worker’s and the women’s rights movement in the country, Farzana Nawaz analyzes the situation of women in Bangladesh and their perspectives on the future of work.
This paper is part of the regional project "Women and the future of work in Asia". With insights from distinguished researchers in nine Asian countries, FES and its partners aim to further promote gender equality in the world of work, with emphasis on enhancing women’s participation in public and political life and promoting decent work for all along with gender-just and human-centric economic models.
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