Globally 2.3 million women and men suffer from work-related accidents or diseases every year – this corresponds to over 6.000 deaths every single day. Although, workplace safety in Bangladesh’s apparel industry has improved since the Rana Plaza building collapse in 2013 workers in the industry still face a comparably high risks of work-related injuries and diseases, due to the hazardous nature of the job. The workers are still forced to work in unsafe environments, surrounded by heavy machinery and hazardous chemicals without having access to appropriate protection clothing and devices. While workplace safety has improved significantly in Bangladesh’s apparel industry, workers are still exposed to severe risks. Legal provisions administering prevention, rehabilitation, and compensation mechanisms, forming a comprehensive employment injury insurance (EII) are highly fragmented and do not cover all relevant parts. According to the Bangladesh labour law 2006 (2018) amendment, compensation for workplace accidents and occupational diseases is the employers’ liability. In case of death or permanent disability workers are compensated with a lump sum. The fact that it is necessary to involve the labour courts to receive these compensation payments adds an additional hurdle for the workers. Especially those who need to work over hours to make ends meet after losing the partner’s income do not have the time, resources, or knowledge to get involved in these legal procedures.
Despite the support from experienced international donors like GIZ and ILO and low expected premiums, the employers fiercely resist the introduction of an EII, referring to increasing cost of operation as well as existing compensation mechanisms mentioned above. Due to the limited information and understanding of the benefits of an EII linked with a persisted stigma around insurances, also the workers and workers representatives have so far refrained from lobbying for the introduction of an EII. The ongoing situation arising out of the COVID 19 pandemic has showed the importance of social security measures for the employees. Like many other countries an EII can be a viable option for Bangladesh towards the development of a holistic social security measure. Moreover, workers’ representatives seem to realise this window of opportunity and slowly develop an interest to learn more about an EII in order to start lobbying. Therefore, at this moment, a unified and coordinated approach is necessary. Altogether, a window of opportunity seems to have opened recently, in which a constructive demand driven dialogue can been initiated at grassroot and societal level.