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90pc RMG workers will get wages digitally by 2021 despite challenges

MONIRA MUNNI | November 21, 2019 00:00:00

Infrastructure development, creating awareness among owners and workers, and financial and digital literacy are the major challenges in bringing all the garment workers under the digital wage payment system.

Despite the challenges, the government and stakeholders are committed to make wage payment of around 90 per cent of the country's garment workers digitally by 2021 as part of the government's target to develop less cash transaction system by then.

Currently, about 1.5 million out of 4.0 million garment workers are receiving their wages digitally.

State minister for ICT Division Zunaid Ahmed Palak made the observations at a panel interview organised on the sidelines of a day-long 'Bangladesh Digital Wages Summit' held at a city hotel on Wednesday.

Industries minister Nurul Majid Mahmud Humayun was present as chief guest at the opening session of the Summit.

The Summit was jointly organized by the Access to Information (a2i) programme of the ICT Division, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the UN-based Better Than Cash Alliance, Business for Social Responsibility and Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA).

"Infrastructure, vehicles and policies are there but we have to aware our workers," Mr Palak said.

Not only the financial literacy is enough to ensure digital payment of wages, he said, stressing on the necessity to assure digital literacy, saying that without having the digital literacy, workers would not be able to use the mobile wallet or digital wallet.

The government is going to work in this area together in partnership with all the organisers including Better Than Cash Alliance , UNDP, a2i, ICT Division, ministry of industries, BGMEA and global apparel buyers, he added.

"We will work together targeting the 4.0 million garment workers first and then gradually will take this awareness programme to other workers into the other industries," he added.

"By this way, we have the policy, we have the vehicles," he explained, adding that the government is developing an inter-operable digital payment transaction platform.

Under the platform, all the vehicles, financial service providers will get the opportunity to work together because the approach is totally vendor neutral ones.

"And this is how we are planning to overcome all the challenges," the junior minister said, expressing the hope that by 2021 at least 90 per cent of the garment workers' wages would be disbursed digitally.

Industries minister Nurul Majid Mahmud Humayun said there has already been a huge change in the garment sector in terms of payment of salaries.

He also suggested improving the financial literacy of the garment workers to implement the payment system.

He assured that his ministry is open to providing any sort of help to both public and private entities and all other stakeholders in case of digital payment.

Terming readiness of the garment factory and mental readiness of the owners are very important, A2I policy advisor Anir Chowdhury said the policies are ready and infrastructure is mostly ready, but the cost of the infrastructure of the devices has to come down further.

"To be competitive and sustain, a factory has to be digitised and this is the first mental barrier we have to break through," he added, responding to a question.

Managing Director of the United Nations-based Better Than Cash Alliance, Dr Ruth Goodwin-Groen said, "We are committing to help bring together the key public and private sector stakeholders who can take wage digitisation in Bangladesh to the next level."

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