Massive Shift to Digital Wage Payments in the RMG Sector in Bangladesh

by Daniela Ortega
1 week ago

Over the past two weeks we have surveyed 1,384 workers in the RMG sector in Bangladesh by telephone, an increase from the 800 workers we had interviewed in April. The workers are employed in factories spread across the five main industrial areas of Bangladesh (Chittagong, Dhaka City, Gazipur, Narayanganj, and Savar). Almost three-quarters are women, roughly representative of workers in the sector as a whole.

The major findings of the past two weeks are as follows:

Here are the details:

Work Hours and Wages

We have been tracking the workers’ work hours and we are seeing a large increase in the share of workers reporting that they have returned to work:

  • In April, 49% of the workers interviewed reported going to work for at least one day. By May 16, this number had increased to 83%, reflecting an increasing number of workers going back to work amid the ease of the country’s lockdown restrictions.

  • As of May 16, 67% of workers reported they had been paid. There are some differences in the experiences of men and women workers during the May payment cycle. Fewer women report being paid: 

    • 64% of women reported being paid, 

    • 74% of men reported being paid. 

Important Shift in Digital Payments

  • 82% of workers reported that they were paid through some sort of digital channel (bKash, Rocket, Nagad, or bank transfer). In comparison, in April, 28% of garment workers were paid digitally. This represents a massive shift of payments from cash to digital within the space of one month. Both women and men reported being paid digitally at about the same rate—82% and 84% respectively

  • Women were less likely to have withdrawn the cash from their accounts immediately after they had been paid—84% of women reported withdrawing their salary from their account immediately in comparison to 93% of men.

  • Despite the large number of workers being paid digitally, many for the first time, the process went smoothly for most of them: 95% were able to cash out their payment at an ATM or agent on their first try and 78% waited in line to cash out for less than 10 minutes.

This coming weekend we will explore the kind of measures that have been taken by the factories to prevent the spread of covid-19 in the work place as well as the perception and expectations of the many workers who have recently started receiving digital wages.