Social protection in Bangladesh

Social protection in Bangladesh is embedded in Article 15 (d) of the country’s National Constitution (1972). It is also the cornerstone of the National Social Security Strategy (2015), and its accompanying Action Plan (2018), which both cite plans to introduce a National Social Insurance Scheme covering sickness, maternity pay and protection, old age pensions, workplace accidents and unemployment benefits for workers in the formal economy.

Currently, Bangladesh has 114 disparate social protection programmes, primarily centred around food distribution and cash transfers. These programmes need to be better coordinated and integrated under a coherent institutional framework to ensure inclusive coverage of vulnerable populations to reduce social economic risks, food shortages and related hardships.

According to the World Bank , there are 40 million Bangladeshis living in extreme poverty (surviving on less than $1.90 per day). A further 30% of the population are ‘vulnerable,’ defined as people with incomes slightly above the $1.90 per day poverty threshold. These poor and vulnerable groups constitute 70 million individuals. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was estimated that 13 million working-age men and women were unemployed; a figure that has significantly increased during the current crisis.

ILO’s work on social protection in Bangladesh

The ILO in Bangladesh is implementing the following social protection interventions under the Decent Work Country Programme (2017-2020):
  1. Employment injury insurance (EII). In cooperation with the Government of Bangladesh, workers’ and employers’ organizations and GIZ, a pilot EII project has been designed for the Ready-Made Garments (RMG) industry.   The pilot is based on  lessons learned from ILO’s earlier support to Rana Plaza Claims Arrangement for over 5,100 survivors of the Rana Plaza collapse in 2013.
  2. Persons with Disabilities (PWDs). The ILO supported the establishment of the Bangladesh Business and Disability Network (BBDN) in 2016, which advocates for and bridges business entities with PWDs seeking employment. As a member of the Innovation to Inclusion (i2i) Consortium, the ILO is developing, testing and validating effective ways to engage and retain persons with disabilities in paid employment in the private sector in Bangladesh.
  3.  Wage subsidy. The ILO has designed an intervention to provide one-time wage subsidy payments to approximately 40,000 women and disabled RMG workers impacted by COVID-19. This subsidy will complement ongoing stimulus efforts by the Government of Bangladesh and development partners.
  4.  Unemployment insurance. Under an ILO-UNIQLO public private partnership, a policy and legislative analysis will be conducted for the establishment of an Unemployment Insurance Scheme for formal economy workers in Bangladesh. This is a regional initiative, aimed at strengthening support mechanisms for unemployed workers through effective employment insurance system, expansion of re-skilling training and improvement in public employment services.
  5. UN coordination:  In response to the socio-economic upheaval posed by COVID-19, the UN Country Team is supporting the Government of Bangladesh in developing a Social Economic Recovery Framework (SERF); the ILO & UNICEF are co-leading the “social protection and basic services” activities under this framework. The SERF is a transitional document which will guide the work of the UN in Bangladesh, in collaboration with the government and key stakeholders, from July 2020 onwards for a period of 18 months.
  6. UN SDG Joint Programme for tea gardens: The ILO leads the UN SDG Joint Programme for tea gardens in collaboration with  UNFPA, UNICEF and UN Women which seeks to enhance access to better coordinated and inclusive social protection and social services for female tea garden workers and their families in Sylhet Division. The programme also seeks to create a more empowering and non-discriminatory environment contributing to decent work for the tea garden workers