ILO Newsroom – May 8, 2013

The following stories were written by the ILO Newsroom


Youth jobs’ gains wiped out by slow recovery

A new ILO report says the long-term impact of the youth employment crisis could be felt for decades, creating a generation at risk of suffering decent work deficits throughout their lives.

Global Employment Trends for Youth 2013: A generation at risk

The new study examines the continuing job crisis affecting young people in many parts of the world. It provides updated statistics on global and regional youth unemployment rates and presents ILO policy recommendations to curb the current trends.

Download the Executive Summary

For the complete article, click here (You will be redirected to the ILO website.)

Workplace safety

Conclusions of the ILO’s high level mission to Bangladesh

Joint statement issued by the tripartite partners at the conclusion of the ILO’s high-level mission sent to Dhaka, Bangladesh, following the Rana Plaza Building collapse.  

Type:  Statement

When:  04 May 2013

Where:  Dhaka

The tripartite partners (Government, employers and workers) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) express their great sadness at the immense loss of life and serious injuries caused by the collapse of the Rana Plaza Building in Savar on April 24 2013, as well as the recent factory fires at Tazreen Fashions Limited and Smart Export Garments. All partners extend their condolences to the bereaved families of the victims and convey our sympathy to those injured due to these terrible events.  

From 1-4 May, a high level delegation of the ILO, led by Deputy Director General for Field Operations and Partnerships, Mr. Gilbert Houngbo, visited Bangladesh to convey the solidarity of the ILO with those affected by these tragic events, the partners from government, labour, and industry, and to the nation as a whole. The Mission engaged with the tripartite partners and other stakeholders to identify what needs to be done to prevent any such future tragedies.  

The tripartite partners stand united in their resolve to do everything possible to prevent further tragedy. In this respect, the tripartite partners and the ILO have agreed on the necessity to develop an action plan focusing on the following short and medium term steps:

  • Submission to Parliament, during its next session, which is expected to be called in June 2013, of a labour law reform package, that considers inputs of the tripartite partners and that would improve protection, in law and practice, for the fundamental rights to freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining, as well as occupational safety and health.
  • Assess by the end of 2013 the structural building safety and fire safety of all active export-oriented ready-made garment factories in Bangladesh, and initiate remedial actions, including relocation of unsafe factories. The tripartite partners call on the ILO to assist in the mobilisation of the technical and financial resources required to undertake the assessment.
  • The tripartite partners call on the ILO to launch a skills and training programme for workers who sustained injuries in the recent tragic events at Tazreen Fashions Ltd., Smart Export Garments and Rana Plaza that resulted in disability. In addition, BGMEA and BKMEA are to redeploy the RMG workers that were rendered unemployed as well as rehabilitated workers as was emphasized by the Honourable Prime Minister of Bangladesh.
  • Recruit, within 6 months, 200 additional inspectors by the Government and ensure that, the Department of the Chief Inspector of Factories and Establishments will have been upgraded to a Directorate with an annual regular budget allocation adequate to enable i) the recruitment of a minimum of 800 inspectors and ii) the development of the infrastructure required for their proper functioning.
  • Implement, in full, the National Tripartite Plan of Action on Fire Safety in the RMG Industry in Bangladesh, and extend its scope to include structural integrity of buildings to improve health, occupational and structural safety and other vulnerable sectors, to be identified in consultation with the relevant stakeholders.
  • The tripartite partners call upon the Better Work joint management (ILO/IFC) to meet immediately after the adoption of the labour law, assuming the law reform package adopted would constitute improved protection, in law and practice, for the fundamental rights to freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining, as well as occupational safety and health and progress on trade union registration would continue.  

The action plan will include a follow-up mechanism to measure in 6 months time, progress made in the implementation of the measures announced today.

Safety must be given the highest consideration by the Government, employers and workers in Bangladesh. Those responsible for the tragic events that have occurred in Bangladesh over the past 6 months shall be held accountable. Unless lawful actions are taken at the earliest more lives may be lost in preventable industrial accidents. The tripartite partners therefore resolved to increase their efforts to provide every single worker in Bangladesh with a safe work place, and to ensure workers’ rights and representation, regardless of whether that work place may be a garment factory, a retail shop or a bank.. The ILO expresses its appreciation for the resolve of the tripartite partners.  

The tripartite partners and the ILO acknowledge that the challenges are daunting but believe that, if international buyers and brands take increased responsibility for improving working conditions and safety and health and with the active support of development partners and donors, safety can and must be improved in all workplaces throughout Bangladesh.

A smart way to prevent bonded labour

A young couple and their new baby are the first beneficiaries of a national health insurance scheme which now extends to migrant brick kiln workers at risk of bondage, in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.  

Feature | 03 May 2013

Ramesh and Sunita Satnami

ANDHRA PRADESH (ILO News) – Sunita Satnami was seven months pregnant when she and her husband,  Ramesh Satnami, arrived in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh to work in the brick kilns.

With few job opportunities at home, they had left their village in the neighbouring state of Odisha after securing a 39,000 rupee (US$710) advance from their employer.

The loan potentially locked them into a cycle of debt bondage that could be difficult to escape from.

We are very poor and I was sure that my son and I would have died.”

When Sunita Satnami went into labour, doctors told her she needed a caesarean – which would have cost them 50,000 rupees (US$910). But instead of having to borrow even more money to pay the hospital costs, they were able to use a health insurance ‘smart card’ to pay the bill, thanks to an interstate agreement, drawn up with the help of the International Labour Organization. The smart card is provided under the federal Ministry of Labour and Employment’s “RSBY”* national health insurance scheme.  

“We are very poor and I was sure that my son and I would have died. It is a huge amount. It is good that the government has given us the card,” Sunita Satnami says.

Baby Rahul arrived safely. It was the first time the smart card had been used by migrant workers in Andhra Pradesh to access primary healthcare services.

“Neo” bondage  

Traditional bonded labour – where whole families of peasant farmers were socially and economically dependent on their landlords down the generations – was officially outlawed in India in 1976.

However, the system evolved into a type of short-term “neo bondage”, based on financial transactions and most often affecting poor migrant workers like the Satnamis, who are involved in seasonal work.

During the off season, labourers take advances from their employers to help them pay bills at home. When the rainy season ends and the brick kilns open, they migrate to the kilns to work off the debt, in the hope that some money will be left out of their meagre wages.

It leaves workers open to exploitation: they are paid below the minimum wage, live and work in bad conditions and often are subject to violence. Sometimes they are still indebted when the job finishes and they return home. Needing access to finance for healthcare, school fees and daily living expenses – they become trapped in the cycle of debt.

To add to their vulnerability, migrant bonded labourers like the Satnamis normally have difficulties accessing basic health and welfare services in the states they move to temporarily. Often they do not know what services they are entitled to or where to find the money to pay for them.

Video- Tackling Bonded Labour in Tamil Nadu  

In India’s Tamil Nadu state, thousands of people desperate for money are offered advance payments to work in the region’s many brick kilns. While this system has worked well enough in the past for both employers and workers, many workers run the risk of “debt bondage” because they cannot leave the worksite until they repay the advance in full. But the situation is changing now, by ILO working with government and employers, and showing workers how they can take more control of their own lives.

A preventative approach  

The lack of social protection and the need for access to finance are some of the key issues tackled in the project “Reducing Vulnerability to bondage in India through the Promotion of Decent Work” – a joint initiative between the ILO and the Ministry of Labour and Employment (MoLE).

By taking a preventative approach, the project’s aim is to reduce the conditions that perpetrate bondage-like conditions by promoting decent work, and by removing possible elements of bondage and coercion in the worker-employer relationship. It also involves inter-state coordination mechanisms for migrant workers, including workplace improvements, organization and unionization of workers and linking them to social security schemes.

In this case, the Satnamis benefited from a memorandum of understanding drawn up between the states of Andhra Pradesh and Odisha and the Ministry of Labour & Employment, with the help of the ILO. The smart card health insurance scheme (known locally as RSBY), allows migrant workers to access services without paying cash. They only need to pay 30 rupees (US$0.54) for the card.

We work closely with government and social partners to improve the working and living conditions of workers.”

 “Social dialogue is an important aspect of this project,” says Tine Staermose, Director of the ILO’s Decent Work Team in South Asia.

“We work closely with government and social partners to improve the working and living conditions of workers. The model is sustainable as it uses locally available resources to break the debt-bondage cycle, promotes rights of workers, and enables their access to services and schemes. The positive results shown in Andhra Pradesh and Odisha have encouraged four more states to come forward and sign similar MoU’s.”

Anil Swarup, Director-General for Labour Welfare, says the MOU draws a clear roadmap for reducing workers’ vulnerability to bondage.

“The government clearly recognizes the need to tackle the scourge of bondage and is now evolving institutional structures to sustain the momentum and also to replicate this module in other parts of the country. The results so far have been extremely encouraging.”

Sunita and Ramesh Satnami say they do not want Rahul to work in the brick kilns. They dream of sending him to a good school in Odisha and hope he will become a government employee.  

* Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY) provides cashless medical treatment for up to five members of a family. The scheme was specially approved for the migrant brick kiln workers in Andhra Pradesh.

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