Publications

The Future of Liberal Democracy in Bangladesh

In this paper, the author attempts to discuss the prospects of liberal democracy in Bangladesh after the COVID-19 pandemic on the basis of scrutinizing several ongoing problems and shedding lights on a number of long-lasting issues. The ongoing problems include a growing culture of self-censorship, feeble and ineffective opposition, subtle depoliticization and compromise with the basics of democracy and minimum effort for institution-building. It is also mentioned that lack of enthusiasm for democratic values at the societal level and democracy deficit in the regional and global political landscapes also work as a hindrance in the flourishing of the chance of liberal democracy in the country.


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Digital Platform Economy in Bangladesh: Opportunities & Challenges

The Digital platform, though a new phenomenon, has been spreading widely in the society and economy of Bangladesh. At the wake of the digital transformation of the service sector, the improvements in internet, access as well as the increase in the availability of smartphones, had led to the growth of digital platforms in the country. Therefore Uber, Pathao, Food Panda, Daraz, and so many others have become household names in urban Bangladesh especially in Dhaka. Nationally, Bangladesh has become the second largest source of online labour in the world. Thus, there are immense opportunities for exploring the scope generating employment among the large number of youths in Bangladesh through the digital platform economy. As it is a new sector and not yet explored and regulated, the paper analyzes the opportunities and challenges of the platform economy to utilize it to the maximum during the fourth industrial revolution.


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Geopolitics of the Pandemic: The Bangladesh Scene

The corona pandemic has been transforming the global order, and Bangladesh is one of the players. There are lots of changes happening in geopolitics – e.g. global powers are weakened, new alliances are built, regionalism is getting more momentum, vaccines have become an issue of global politics, etc. In this situation, some critical questions such as where Bangladesh stands, how Bangladesh is managing the socio-economic and health loss, how effective are those policy and administrative initiatives to manage the crisis, which countries and actors are beside Bangladesh in this unprecedented situation, and why are they with Bangladesh – are circling on our mind. This paper by Prof Ali Riaz analyses the context of Bangladesh and responds to those questions, and at the end, the author provides four alternatives in moving ahead in the post-corona global political environment: status quo, muddling through, revising the course, or a radical realignment.


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Tracking Media Coverage of Women Trade Union Leaders During the COVID-19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on the ready-made garment industry and on garment workers’ livelihoods. In the first two months after Bangladesh identified the first COVID-19 patient on 8 March 2020, US$3.16 billion worth of orders for 1,140 factories were cancelled, according to BGMEA. This media tracking study was conducted to better understand the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the ready-made garments industry. The media tracking followed coverage by print and online media on the situation of the ready-made garment sector during COVID-19, with special focus on female-led trade union activities. The tracking began on 15 March and ended on 15 August 2020.


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The Impact of COVID-induced Economic Crisis on Employment and Labour Market in Bangladesh

Like the rest of the world, Bangladesh has adopted measures to address the challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic, which led and continue to lead to an unprecedented economic crisis affecting employment and labour markets. While the lockdown measures imposed from March to May 2020 hit the economy hard, economic recovery took time. The deep recession of the global economy is also having an adverse effect. There are already visible signs of the financial crisis's impact on employment and livelihoods. The combined health and economic crisis's adverse effects are being transmitted to the labour market through two broad channels: Domestic and external.


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Development of SMEs in Bangladesh: Lessons From The German Experience

Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) have long been globally recognised as engines of growth. In recent times, a growing emphasis on inclusive development has drawn further impetus on SME development since SMEs' growth contributes to GDP growth, employment creation, poverty alleviation, and vertical and horizontal expansion of firms. These SME enterprises are very dynamic and can adjust better with the changes. In Germany, 99.4% of the enterprises are micro, small and medium enterprises. It accounts for 63% of all employment and contributes to over 54% to value addition. In emerging economies, SMEs contribute up to 45% of total employment and 33% of GDP. Over 98% of the enterprises are SMEs in Bangladesh. More than 84% of rural non-farm employment was generated through cottage and micro-enterprises in 2013.


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A Guide to Ensuring Gender Equality for Women Workers in Trade Unions in Bangladesh

Bangladesh has seen a significant increase in women's participation in the workforce in recent years. According to the International Labour Organization, it increased by 35 percent between 2008 and 2017, while male employment increased by only 11 percent. However, women still face many barriers in the job market. One important issue is their limited participation in trade unions. Although the potential to improve the situation for women is huge, women are still severely underrepresented - on average, only 6.3% of trade union members are women. The purpose of this report is therefore to look into women's participation in trade unions and the issues they face as well as how women's roles in trade unions can be strengthened.


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The Crisis in the World of Work in view of COVID-19

The 7th Anniversary of Rana Plaza tragedy (24 April 2020) was observed in a completely different context in Bangladesh – particularly with regard to the world of work. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the shutdown of all kinds of economic activities in the country since late March 2020 which severely affected businesses, employment, workers’ wages and earnings, occupational safety and health (OSH) and workers’ rights. The country’s world of work would be affected further in the coming days in view of the grim outlook on the economy for the rest of the period of 2020 and partly for 2021.


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Feminist Perspectives on the Future of Work in Bangladesh

Over the last few years, despite economic growth and declining poverty levels in Asia, inequality has continued to grow with large groups of society becoming marginalised, not least women. In Bangladesh, despite significant progress on women’s rights in recent years, women still compose a far smaller share of the labour force, and continue to face structural societal challenges towards education, higher level jobs and better work conditions. In addition, automation within the ready-made garment sector as well as the agricultural sector presents a big risk for women’s labour participation. Upcoming sectors, such as within Information and Communication Technology, risks limiting women’s access to the labour market even further.


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Employment, Labour Force Participation and Education: Towards Gender Equality in Bangladesh

Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, Bangladesh and Centre for Development and Employment Research are proud to present our new study "Employment, Labour Force Participation and Education: Towards Gender Equality in Bangladesh". The authors, Rushidan I Rahman, PHD and Rizwanul Islam, have conducted a quantitative study on the role of women and their possibilities in the labour force in the fast developing economy of Bangladesh. Based on the results, they have made a number of policy recommendations on how to reduce gender inequality in the country.


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Graduating LDCs in an Evolving WTO: Options and Strategies

Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Bangladesh and Centre for Policy Dialogue are proud of presenting a newly published study titled “Graduating LDCs in an Evolving WTO: Options and Strategies”. The authors analyse recent developments and reform initiatives in the WTO from the perspectives of "graduating LDCs" and made suggestions on how the WTO can safeguard their trade interests in the course of losing their LDC status. FES Geneva Office will launch the study in the WTO Public Forum in Geneva, October 2019.


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Livelihood Challenges of RMG Workers - Exploring Scopes within the Structure of Minimum Wages and Beyond

This paper examines the livelihood issues of the workers in the readymade garments (RMG) sector of Bangladesh, and identifies the scope of determining a minimum wage that would address their requirements of a decent livelihood standard. The study observes a compositional change in workers’ household expenditure patterns, where non-food expenses have taken up the larger share. Workers of all grades were found struggling to meet their essential needs, which indirectly implies that their earnings are inadequate for spending beyond the subsistence level.


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The Ignored Generation - Exploring the Dynamics of Youth Employment in Bangladesh

With a large youth population, Bangladesh faces the challenges of harvesting the benefits of a demographic dividend. However, in recent years, the labour market of Bangladesh has been struggling to absorb the increasing number of young job-seekers. This disconcerting trend remains a fault line in Bangladesh’s prospect of graduating from the least developed country (LDC) category with a momentum. In this context, this study, undertaken by the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), provides an insightful exposure of the causes of youth unemployment in the country. It constitutes an analysis of the latest available empirical evidence.


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Performance of EPZ RMG Enterprises Are They Still Better Compared to Non-EPZ Enterprises?

The policy brief examines the nature and extent of dierences in the relative performance of EPZ and non-EPZ enterprises in the post-Rana Plaza period. Based on the data collected from the sample survey of 226 randomly selected non-EPZ area enterprises and 14 EPZ enterprises, the study undertakes a comparative assessment of these two types of enterprises of the RMG sector.


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Are Subcontractee Enterprises Able to Upgrade? Insights from a Case Study

The Policy Brief presents a case study of a subcontractee enterprise which is not a member of any trade body but enlisted in the DIFE. The Brief highlights the benchmark level of social compliance and technological standards of this enterprise in order to understand its potentiality in undertaking necessary economic and social upgrading activities to make the enterprise sustainable.


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Workers’ Organisations in RMG Enterprises - How to Address Institutional Challenges?

The poor state of workers’ organisations at the enterprise level is the weakest part of a globally competitive readymade garment (RMG) value chain of Bangladesh. The situation did not improve even after undertaking various initiatives during the post-Rana Plaza period. The Policy Brief reviews the challenges of institutionalisation of workers’ organisations in the RMG sector and puts forward suggestions for better functioning of these organisations.


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Can a Sustainable Inspection System be Developed? The Case of RMG Sector in Bangladesh

The objective of this policy brief is to review the problems identified in workplace safety and security in the RMG sector and to identify the gaps of the public monitoring system in contrast with that of international initiatives, and consequently putting forward a set of recommendations for developing a sustainable M & I system for factories.


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'Data Universe' of Bangladesh’s RMG Enterprises - How to Meet the Data Gap?

The study aims to create a 'data universe' for the RMG sector of Bangladesh consisting of information on the RMG enterprises which are currently in operation. The study puts forward a set of recommendations on how to develop a comprehensive database for the RMG sector of Bangladesh. The data for this study has been compiled from various available sources including the internal databases of public and private organisations.


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University of Dhaka: In Search for Excellence – Issues and Policy Recommendations

The title of the second version of the policy paper on Dhaka University is self-explanatory. The paper addresses a few pertinent issues, such as governance, faculty recruitment and student admission, campus politics, campus security, teaching and research, and soft power all of which are crucial towards achieving excellence.


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Private Universities in Bangladesh – Possibilities and Challenges

This policy paper identifies and prioritises the key challenges faced by the students, teachers and management. Based on the real experience shared by the actors involved, the paper formulates a set of action-oriented policy recommendations.


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Linking Trade and Decent Work in Global Supply Chains in Bangladesh

Bangladesh's integration into the global supply chains is mainly linked to its liberalised trade. Free trade regimes such as the EU GSP have made significant contributions to the economic upgrading of the country, but have failed to upgrade its social development. Although freedom of association, freedom from forced and child labour and employment free of discrimination, are defined as the Core Labour standards (CLS), these ILO core conventions are rarely complied by all actors along the global supply chain. Furthermore, the aftermath of the Rana Plaza events tragedy revealed an urgent need for the inclusion of rights such as decent working hours, living wages and health and safety, which are regarded as the elements of CLS+. The study titled "Linking Trade and Decent Work in Global Supply Chains in Bangladesh" highlights power imbalances in the industrial and labour relations along the global supply chain and offers recommendations for all actors along the chain to alter the conditions prevailing at the bottom of the value chain. The study is a part of the regional project CLS+, which was launched by Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung in Asia in 2016.


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The Role of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises in Development

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) play an important role for development. Germany is a role model for SMEs. This is due to several important factors: Germany’s local banking system, which is not profit oriented; the dual vocational system; the high social capital of strong employers’ associations and trade unions; government support of SME clusters and a big, government-owned development bank. SMEs in developing countries typically suffer from limited access to long-term and affordable finance, insufficient institutions for developing a skilled class of entrepreneurs and workers, a low income, and poor policies to support economic and social upgrading of SMEs. The study illustrates that economic upgrading in developing countries is necessary, but will not be successful without social upgrading. Germany – with its high social capital within the framework of a social market economy, its financial and education system, and its government support for SMEs – can stimulate debates about SMEs in developing countries.


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The Women’s Movement in Bangladesh: A Short History and Current Debates

Since independence, Bangladesh has made significant gains in empowering women. It has formulated and implemented policies and programmes that improve the condition of women and girls. Maternal mortality and fertility rates have gone down, making Bangladesh attain gender parity in enrolment. Women’s movement played a critical role in bringing about these changes. However, the women’s movement faces many different challenges given the rapidly changing economic and political contexts at the national and global levels. For socially just and gender equal responses to these challenges, solidarity and coalitions among the various school of thoughts in Bangladesh are essential. The study is an attempt to trace the history of women’s movements in Bangladesh and to discuss its achievements and internal and external challenges for a sustainable movement. The author weaves in broader historical changes and discusses the nature of the current political context.


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Who benefits from trade?

The changing nature of international trade, dominated by global value chains, has led to downward pressure on working conditions. Fundamental rights at work, such as the right to organise and bargain collectively, are not upheld. Child labour exists in many supply chains, and minimum wages, when paid, are not sufficient to ensure decent living standards. Forced overtime and lack of safety measures are also common. This publication wishes to draw attention to the imbalances in international trade and the asymmetric power relationship in global value chains, and to initiate a discussion on how to tackle these challenges. It is one of the outputs of the regional project Core Labour Standards Plus (CLS+), which was launched by Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung in Asia in 2016.


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The Political Economy of Change

Escaping the Middle-income Trap: Perspectives from Bangladesh. Development experiences of a number of countries bear out that these countries are not being able to come out of the middle-income status after having graduated from the low income group. They have fallen into what is often termed as the middle-income trap. Many factors underpin such an outcome. The study analyses on how Bangladesh may be able to avoid such a trap, how best she can take advantage of her strengths and how she could accelerate her pace of development to graduate from the middle-income status. The study has articulated a need for new coalitions of drivers, which have high stakes in bringing transformative changes in Bangladesh, to emerge.


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Moving forward with the SDGs

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) reflect an ambitious development objective with a transformative vision. The new development agenda makes for a holistic developmental framework. Experts are forecasting that the new agenda could achieve more than its predecessor, the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs). The SDGs bring enormous opportunities, but also immense challenges for developing countries around the world. This study identifies five key challenges of implementing the SDGs in developing countries: integrating the SDGs into national, sub-national and local-level development plans; establishing an institutional architecture that can deliver the development agenda; mobilising adequate financial and other resources; realising a “data revolution” with regard to monitoring and evaluation; and developing partnerships by creating platforms for multi-stakeholder participation.


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After Rana Plaza: Bottom Up Not Top Down To Ensure Workers Safety

The Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh in April 2013 made global news. The accident also raised major concerns about the working conditions in Bangladesh’s garment industry and questions about western companies’ lack of control and supervision of their supply chains. Beyond the news of April 2013 and the one-year anniversary, it is time to have a close look at what has happened since. This project was not designed to point fingers at people or specific companies. An online publication project by the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Dhaka Office and Social Europe looks at the situation after Rana Plaza bringing together different experts on the subject.


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The Economy of Tomorrow

The Economy of Tomorrow Project aims at constructing a new development path and enable the formation of “discoursive coalitions” in order to build momentum and power for its implementation. The regional dialogue between renowned academic thinkers from Asia and Europe is based on the assumption that there cannot be a one-size-fits-all blueprint in order to overcome the manifold crises both Asian and European societies are facing today. In all participating countries, renowned economists look at the challenges on the way to the economy of tomorrow.


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Lagging Behind

FES published "Lagging Behind: Lessons from the Least Developed Countries for a Development Agenda Post-2015," based on the CPD study titled “Attaining the MDGs: How Successful are the LDCs?” The study is authored by CPD Distinguished Fellow Dr Debapriya Bhattacharya, with co-authors Research Fellow Mr Towfiqul Islam Khan, Research Associate Ms Umme Salma and Programme Associate Mr Gazi Joki Uddin. Based on the study FES Bangladesh earlier co-organised a dialogue to discuss the delivery of the MDGs in least developed countries and reflect on Post-2015 issues on 21 September 2013.


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Dhaka, Bangladesh
contact(at)fesbd.org

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