Although Bangladesh has qualified to become a middle-income country, its female labor force continues to slowly enter the mainstream economy.
However, 85% of women work in the informal sector while their footprint in income-generating activities is flagrant.
For women entrepreneurs too, many abandon businesses due to lack of adequate skills, financial knowledge, limited access to market and finance.
The government has taken several steps to upskill and retrain the female workforce and has also established the National Skills Development Authority (NSDA) for this purpose.
However, the NSDA has yet to launch a women-centered skills development program in the past two years.
NDSA Executive Chairman Dulal Krishna Shaha said a policy has been drafted to address the issue of skills development for women.
“We hope that it will soon be approved so that the authorities can start the process in a planned way,” he adds.
Meanwhile, the executive director of the Center for Policy Dialogue, Dr Fahmida Khatun, said skills development training should be designed around market and employer demands.
“Women need training and advice to decide what business to start and how to access the market,” she added.
Dr Fahmida said there are several women’s chambers and associations working on a limited scale that have not yet played such an effective role.
These associations can extend their support to prepare documentations and obtain other information related to obtaining a loan, she added.
Bangladesh Employers Federation General Secretary Faruque Ahmed said a separate program should be there with adequate budget to create jobs for women.
“Different projects have a minor gender-focused component. The allocation of resources for skills development is not rational for women for this,” he quoted.
Development partners as well as the government should prioritize this and special effort is needed for this, Mr. Faruque said.
He suggested that the government look into the issues while drawing up development project proposals.
Dr. Binayak Sen, Research Director of the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS), says the number of women working in the formal sector is not increasing as expected.
But they are still nearly 40% in the industrial sector, he adds.
“The female labor force participation rate in our economy is 36%, which is higher than India’s 20%,” Dr Sen said.
Aspire to Innovate (a2i) Project Director Dr. Dewan Muhammad Humayun Kabir said that a2i provides skills development training programs for women entrepreneurs and analyzes job requirements.
According to UNDP Country Economist, Dr. Nazneen Ahmed, a gender-friendly public policy, technical education in upper secondary education and on-the-job training facilities are needed for the female workforce.
“Many women find it difficult to get on-the-job training after the office,” she adds.
They continue to work in low-skilled jobs, even in the garment industry, also choosing tailoring instead of cutting which requires computerized instructions, Dr Nazneen commented.
She suggested that the government provide a support program and share training expenses for participants to encourage the private sector.
According to a BIDS study, women make up 30% of the total workforce in Bangladesh.