State of Living Wages and Contribution of Agriculture Workers in Food Security and Food Production Supply Chain

State of Living Wages and Contribution of Agriculture Workers in Food Security and Food Production Supply Chain

This study has been conducted as a consultancy assignment under the auspices of Bangladesh Labour Welfare Foundation and Bangladesh Occupational Safety, Health and Environment Foundation under Decent Work for Agriculture Workers project supported by FNV, Netherlands. The study covered 4 districts in different areas of Bangladesh and 200 agriculture workers were interviewed.

Main focus area of this study includes – status of agriculture workers such as social dignity, daily wages, working time, access to social protection schemes, Occupational Safety and Health, engagement in food supply chain, challenges faced by the agriculture workers, policy direction for integrating interest of the agro- workers in mainstreaming development agenda and recommendations for improvement of life and livelihood of the agriculture workers.

Findings from study areas shows that, workers of youth age is ore engaged in Habiganj and Feni district comparing to other two districts. More than 30% workers having age group 50 + are working in Dhaka, Manikgonj and Habiganj districts. There is gap in acknowledging the profession as Agriculture Workers. Among 200 respondents in four districts, 90% informed that, they are acknowledged as Farmer in National Identification Card, though they are agriculture workers, only 10% respondents have identity as agriculture workers.

There is huge discrimination in wages in study areas. No women workers get more than BDT 300 as daily wages in four districts under this study. In Manikganj, 17% women workers gets BDT 200-250 as daily wages and in Dhaka district 36% women workers get same amount as daily wages. A study of World Food Program shows that, the wages differences between male and female workers are highest in Chittagong and Sylhet and lowest in Barishal and Rajshahi. Labour Force Survey 2013 mentioned that a skilled agriculture worker earns BDT 328 equivalent to 4 US$ in a day.

Mostly the agriculture workers are unorganized and out of 200 respondents, only 5% are involved with trade union but 43% are having engagement with cooperative society or NGO formed groups. Currently there is no specific social protection scheme for agriculture workers but in general consideration, if he /she pass 60 years, then he/she is entitled for old aged allowance. Only 5% respondents informed that one of their family members are getting old aged allowances.

The majority of waged agricultural workers are employed in supply chain system on a seasonal and often a casual or temporary basis. Casual work refers to those employed and paid at the end of each day worked or on a task basis. Temporary work refers to those employed for a specific but limited period of time. Most seasonal, casual or temporary workers do not receive any form of social security or unemployment benefit, holidays with pay, or sickness or maternity leave. Indeed, many full-time waged agricultural earners lack these same benefits. There is a big gap for workspace for a number of women workers in agricultural crops supply chain. Furthermore, jobs are often classed as casual or temporary even if there is in reality continuous employment. The practice of rotating individual workers in supply chain so as to deny them the benefit of permanent employment status is also quite prevalent.

In the existing supply chain, there are a number of middlemen which causes a huge gap between vegetable growers and end consumers. The wages of the labour in supply chain mostly on contract basis or daily basis though few corporate agriculture companies employed labour as monthly basis. In case of vegetable supply chain, it needs to meet the vegetable demand of consumers effectively so that consumers, vegetable growers and middlemen get equal benefit from it. If it is not effective then the interest of any party may decreases which also impact on the overall supply chain negatively. USAID's report A Pro-Poor Analysis of the few agro-sectors in Bangladesh identifies violations of the 8-hour workday; forced and unpaid overtime; failure to provide healthcare, childcare, and maternity leave; failure to observe the right to organize; as well as health and safety violations.

The study recommended for following actions:
- Issuing Identity Card for agriculture workers will enable them to have access to public service facilities including the social protection
- Joint imitative by the Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Labor and Employment for their skill development training for coping with technology based agriculture work
- There should be specific guidelines to the employers to provide PPEs to the agriculture workers.
- Design a special social protection schemes for agriculture workers by the Ministry of Social Welfare, particularly specific guideline to include the senior citizen in the family of agriculture workers as beneficiaries of social protection schemes such as old age allowance, widow allowance
- Issue a circular by the Ministry of Education for enrolment of agri worker’s children in academic institutions without admission fees and other charges
- NGOs may contribute in organizing the agri workers in different groups such as cooperative organizations
- There should be a monitoring mechanism for minimizing gender based discrimination in wage structures
- Awareness program is strongly recommended on occupational diseases due to agriculture work and imparting knowledge to overcome and prevent such diseases
- Implication of relevant legal guidelines for establishing dignity of agro-workers
- Creating opportunity for agriculture workers for shifting the profession in technical areas and distribution of Khans land to the agriculture workers
- Ratification of relevant ILO Convention 141 - Rural Workers' Organisations Convention, 1975 (No. 141)

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