A high-level tripartite-plus consultation organised on 31st March 2022 presented the preliminary feasibility assessment and roadmap for further developing unemployment insurance in Bangladesh, supported by the project ‘Building institutional mechanisms for the gradual extension of social protection in Bangladesh’.
The event was designed to engage the government, employers, and workers organisations, as well as relevant social partners, UN sister agencies, and civil society organisations, in sharing the findings from the research ‘Towards Improved Unemployment Protection in Bangladesh: A Preliminary Feasibility Assessment’.
The consultation is expected to guide the way forward for appropriate policy actions to foster conducive unemployment protection measures in line with National Social Security Strategy (NSSS).
Speaking at the event, the Chief Guest, Mr Md. Ehsan-E-Elahi, Secretary, Ministry of Labour and Employment, Government of Bangladesh, thanked the ILO for conducting this preliminary study on Unemployment Insurance. He said the government would be ready to start an Unemployment Protection Scheme with the technical support of the ILO and development partners. Mr Md. Ehsan-E-Elahi highlighted several ongoing similar programmes by the Ministry of Labour & Employment, particularly the pilot Employment Injury Scheme (EIS) with the technical support of the ILO & GIZ, and the Employment Retention Scheme with financing from the European Union (EU). He said these schemes could pave the way for the government to implement an UI Scheme soon.
Mr Tuomo Poutiainen, Director of ILO-CO-Bangladesh, highlighted ILO’s approach to improved social protection for workers in Bangladesh. He mentioned that unemployment insurance is critical, particularly in crises like the COVID-19 pandemic. He expressed commitment to protect Bangladeshi workers in the event of sudden unemployment and requested support from the government, employers, workers, and donors.
Speaking at the event, the Special Guest, Mr Koen Everaert, Head of Cooperation (Acting) European Union, said that the government and the EU are already implementing an unemployment protection programme to protect workers in the aftermath of the pandemic. He emphasised adopting an ‘incremental’ approach for new social protection schemes. He assured support from the EU Delegation on improving social protection systems, including adopting digital workers databases.
Dr M. A. Razzaque, a leading National Economist, presented findings from the ILO working paper on the preliminary feasibility assessment.
The ILO facilitated a panel discussion with senior officials from the Ministry of Labour & Employment, Cabinet Division, the Ministry of Social Welfare, Bangladesh Employers Federation, NCCWE, UNDP, and academia. The panel members highlighted several initiatives which support the initiation of an Unemployment Insurance Scheme. However, they also identified some areas to be further discussed and finalised before implementing an insurance scheme.
The ILO will continue to facilitate social dialogue to promote further engagement for an extensive technical and knowledgeable discussion on social insurance and contribute to Bangladesh’s national social insurance scheme (NSIS).
Unemployment protection in Bangladesh
The provision of unemployment protection measures is an integral part of the human right to social security and the right to work. Providing income security protection (through insurance) and employment promotion measures (with temporary income support, skill development training, job searching and matching services, etc.) in the event of job loss can safeguard the workers against falling into poverty and sudden deprivation as well as promote the formalisation of workers.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many workers were forced into job disruptions, further highlighting the need for unemployment insurance. In Bangladesh, employers’ and workers’ representatives have raised the need to establish an Unemployment Fund to address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic or any other employment disruptors.
Against this background, the ILO conducted a detailed preliminary feasibility assessment of Unemployment Insurance in Bangladesh in partnership with the European Union DG INTPA (Directorate-General for International Partnerships, European Commission). This assessment is expected to help design a framework for an Unemployment Insurance Scheme contributing to the roadmap by the Government of Bangladesh, submitted to the ILO Governing Body and the 2nd Phase Action Plan of the National Social Security Strategy (NSSS).