Department of Anthropology

Background and Context

Raising Labour Standards in Bangladesh’s Global Garment Industry: What Role for Compensation Rights?

Bangladeshi workers currently have no access to work injury compensation, meaning that an occupational injury or death can lead to secondary health problems and the destitution of families already living in poverty. Among the most prominent initiatives launched after Rana Plaza is the development of a national employment injury insurance system (EIIS) in Bangladesh, involving government, industry, labour representatives, and the International Labour Organization (ILO). The initiative’s two main components are establishing a social insurance infrastructure to deliver benefits, and facilitating reforms to the Bangladesh Labour Act to instantiate rights to work-injury benefits.

The design of a new EIIS can benefit from the lessons of the Rana Plaza Arrangement, a singular compensation agreement brokered by the ILO in 2013 to compensate survivors of the Rana Plaza collapse (see Prentice 2018). Between January 2014 and October 2015, the Arrangement distributed $30 million to 5,109 injured workers and dependant relatives of the deceased. Although funding was provided voluntarily from industry, government, and charities without any admission of liability for the building collapse, compensation payments were allocated using international standards contained in the ILO’s Employment Injury Benefits Convention No. 121.

Image courtesy of Tazreen Claims Administration