Lecturer Muhammad Nurul Islam
Functional English ECON-1105
07 April 2019
Discrimination at Social and Economic Sectors Impedes Development
The Bangladesh government has set a goal to increase the economic status of the country from under-developed to developed by 2041. Although it may sound impossible to reach such a big goal within a very short time, Bangladesh has already been seeing fast economic growth. According to an International Monetary Fund (IMF) report in 2016, the GDP growth rate of the country is at 7.1%, making it the second fastest growing economy in the world. The per capita income has reached $1909 and grown at the rate of 9% which is not enough to reach the goal of $12,000 by 2041 (Daily Star). This problem can be addressed by acknowledging and solving the discrimination in educational institutes and work place towards women, tribal groups, hijra community, and the physically and mentally disabled people.
DISCRIMINATION AGAINST WOMEN
The path to removing all kinds of discrimination against women in Bangladesh is still very long. The women are likely to face discrimination in all aspectsmedical facilities, education, economic opportunities, political participation, and control of finances. UNDPs Human Development Report (HDR, 2011) show that the percentage of enrolment in secondary education for men was 39.3% and for women was 30.8%. CEDAW reported the female student population at technical universities to be only 9%. Even with girls enrolments on the rise, impediments like early marriage, raising children, wage discrimination and sexual harassment in work place forces these educated women to leave employment sector.
While there has been a higher growth rate in female employment compared to males in the labor force, womens participation in high-skill and high-paid managerial and executive positions with job security has increased to a limited extent (Hossein Muhammad). HDR further shows that only 7% of tertiary level jobs are occupied by women and they hold only 18.4% of all non-agricultural jobs. The gender inequality index of the country is at 54.2%. GNI per capita for women was $3244 less than that of men. Women are 2.12% more likely to be unemployed. (HDR 2011)
Women make up half of the population of Bangladesh and only one-third of the labor force. Over 21.7 million women remain unemployed (HDR). From those who are employed, a big portion works in informal sectors like domestic work where they have little to no financial or social security.
DISCRIMINATION AGAINST TRIBAL GROUPS
According to a Daily Star survey in 2011, fifty different tribal groups live in Bangladesh, and their total population is around 1.6 million, making up 1.8% of the total population of the country. Though the Bangladesh constitutions give them autonomy over their economic, social, cultural and political ideals, they are deprived of basic socio-economic rights in reality.
In rural Chottogram where they live, poverty is 1.6 times higher than other rural parts of the country (BBS, 2013). The BBS report also shows that the tribal people in those areas have the poorest types of housing and scores below the national average in many other socio-economic sectors. The tribal people encounter widespread social injustice due to unresolved political issues, and they face mass eviction from their traditional lands. This causes them to migrate to the cities leaving their traditional jobs, e.g. Jum cultivation which results in a loss of cultural heritages.
The migrated tribal population in the cities have little to no skills for employment in the industrial section. Yet the easy access and the huge demand for labor help them to get engaged in informal employment. These employees face injustice such as wage discrimination and mental and physical assault (Mai, 2007). Even those employed as low-paid workers in formal sectors like garments and beauty parlors have faced discrimination and oppression by their employers (Roy, D. et. Al., 2008). The social prejudices easily leave out these 1.8% of the population from a safe work environment and their potential contribution towards the national economy.
DISCRIMINATION AGAINST THE HIJRA COMMUNITY
The societal values of the mainstream Bangladeshi population have always contradicted those of the hijra community, thus refusing all forms of social interaction with the hijra. They have been declined access to social services such as schooling, housing, employment and basic healthcare. NGO FHI 360 stated in a report in 2013 that the hijra community faces stigma and prejudice in every step from family, society, friends and romantic partners, and employers. According to Home Office FFM report in 2017, the hijra are often seen as a public nuisance or outcasts, while the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) said that they were viewed as charity cases. Such views have excluded the hijra from employment opportunities even though they have desire and some qualification to be employed.
According to a statistics from 2016 by Bandhan Hijra Sangha, an organization working for the rights of Hijra, the number of Hijras is nearly 1,00,000 in Bangladesh and their employment rate is unknown. A lot of work places deny the hijra of their employment rights due to their gender non-conforming lifestyle being unacceptable for working environment. A lot of them are fired from jobs eventually when the employers come to know of their gender identity and wanted to save the workplace from sexual pollution. Besides, the hijra have been abused verbally, physically, and sexually at work-places for which they are yet to receive any justice. Some workplace security code even allows hijra to be removed from premises based on their gender identity. A lot of hijra have claimed inability to secure a job due to lack of formal education and discrimination in educational institutions. (Khan, S.I. et. Al., 2009)
These constraints in employment have influenced the hijra to adopt a different method for income like collecting money from market places, blessing newborn children through dancing and singing, clapping before lifting up their clothing in public, and sex work. These offer no social or financial security to the hijra. Moreover, they strengthen the pre-conceived notion about the hijra which caused them to be excluded of formal jobs in the first place, locking them in a vicious cycle they cannot break.
DISCRIMINATION AGAINST THE PHYSICALLY DISABLED
According to estimates by WHO and World Bank, 3.4m children and 10.2m adults are disabled in Bangladesh. Most of them live in rural areas where they and their dependent families are often excluded from development initiatives. Besides, they are unlikely to have any help from their communities. Social stigma forces a lot of parents to hide their disabled children from the society depriving them of their basic rights.
While there has been progress in general enrolment in education, (up to 97% not regarding drop-out rates), a recent World Bank study observed only 11% of children with disabilities to receive any form of education. Although the government keeps creating new opportunities for disabled people, many are still deprived due to lack of awareness. Most are unable to get formal education as there are no arrangements to accommodate them, and they end up failing to qualify for employment. Discrimination is seen in employment positions where the disabled are perfectly able to carry out the job. They are deprived of equal salary and work-place safety due to prejudice and ignorance. Even with education and 10% job quota, disabled people are unlikely to secure those jobs due to unsafe workplace, inaccessibility and lack of mobility.
Disabled people are more likely to face economic and social disadvantages not only because of their physical limitations, but also due to a wide array of societal barriers. Disability allowances cannot cover for the loss they face from being denied employment. Thus, the discrimination throws almost 6% of the total population out of employment and their ability to contribute to the society and the economy.