Covid-19 and Deprivation of Informal Workers -Muslima Akter Tonny

Human Rights

Now the world is going through the pangs of Covid-19. The whole world has become unstable because of it. That is why, the economic conditions of the world is going down. Many people who were involved with informal economy have lost their jobs and many more are going to lose their jobs because of it. Bangladesh is also witnessingthe devastating effectsof this virus.Because of Covid-19,most of the informal sector laborers of our country are also passing their lives through profound sufferings. Informal economy workers often have no wage agreements, no employment contracts, earn little, are not paid on time, have no regular working hours and are not covered by non-wage benefits. Our garments workers forma considerable part of the informal economy.
According to ILO, ‘Because of corona virus, 19.50 crore people are going to lose their permanent job. Among them 12.50 crore people live in Asia and the region of Pacific Ocean.’ Almost 17 million people of the USA lost their job. At the same time, 12-13 million people of our much smaller and poorer country lost their job. Besides that, migrant workers who are working in different countries,are also in imminent danger of losing their jobs. Bangladesh Garments and Industrial Federation (BGIWF) and Bangladesh Centre for Workers’ Solidarity (BCWS) claimed that almost 10 thousands garments workers have lost their job within the last few days.

According to Marx’s conflict theory, “The bourgeoisie uses their influence to oppress the proletariat.” The authority of Garments factories also oppress the garments workers. The best example is the incident of 4th April, 2020.The garments workers came towards Dhaka to attend to their work by pickups, ferries, trucks, and on foot. But when the workers arrived at their destination, the authority took the decision to keep the factories closed until, 11th April. As capitalists purchase the labor and workers sell their own labor, workers are obliged to obey their command, and, sadly, their every whim and caprice. Exploitation is always going on, only the forms of exploitation have changed day by day. In capitalistic social formations, the state is considered to be particularly important in securing the conditions for economic class domination. It is a matter of sorrow that the government authority did not have enough concern about workers’ sufferings and health security. Even they did not manage transport for the workers to go back to their home.
Marx believed that the elite would set up systems of laws, traditions and social structures in order to further support their own dominance. As our garments authority set up the system, they didn’t have to be accountable to anyone for their irresponsible decision. As workers are treated as a commodity, they have little control or power in the economic system.Besides they have the fear of losing job and deduction of payment. So they have no alternative choice but to obey their “owner’s” command.
Structural suppressionis going on in our country. That is why, the poor are suffering most. The formal economy workers are getting their salary in their quarantine time. But most of the informal sector workers are not getting their salary. Therefore they are leading an inhuman life. Uneven distribution of wealth makes the poor poorer still. While the rich are concerned about the pandemic, the poor are concerned about both pandemic and their hunger.
The pandemic is making the poor more vulnerable by the minute. While they provide profit for their “masters” through their largely unrewarded surplus labor, they do not enjoy any safety net in their days of dire need. So, unless government takes proper steps to ensure their basic needs, it would be very dangerous for the whole nation. Because if they don’t get theseopportunities, they will come out from their home. Thus Covid-19 will spread out all over the country. Government should be more serious about the lockdown and should make sure that no more garments workers leave their village to join work until it is medically safe to do so, for themselves as well as for all others. And that is only possible if they are given adequate financial assistance to survive through these tough times. And they should be assured that they won’t lose their job.
Hunger and deprivation can be lethal motivation. Unless a more humane and rational approach is adopted for the millions of informal sector workers as early as possible, the effects of COVID-19 in Bangladesh may be far more dangerous and longer lasting than anticipated.

The author is studying in the Department of Public Administration, University of Comilla.