The project “Building institutional mechanisms for the gradual extension of social protection in Bangladesh” forms part of the ILO’s efforts together with the UN to support the Government of Bangladesh’s social protection agenda. The initiative supports the COVID-19 response with short, medium and long-term measures aimed at creating sustainable social protection systems and facilitating social protection extension in the formal sector

In consultation with tripartite constituents, the project sought to provide technical support in designing an inclusive and gender-responsive Employment Retention through Subsidy Disbursement mechanism. This mechanism aims to support the Ready-Made Garments (RMG) industry and other structured industries in the formal economy, enabling employers and workers to continue employment relations during economic shock.

One of the project’s objectives was to undertake a preliminary feasibility analysis of an unemployment insurance system and establish a framework based on policy and legislative feasibility studies. In addition, advocacy activities aimed to strengthen social protection as per International Labour Standards and expedite the project implementation. This initiative contributed to the government’s long-term vision of formulating a sustainable National Social Insurance Scheme following Bangladesh’s National Social Security Strategy (NSSS-2015). 

Results achieved in 2020-21

  • Co-creating the Employment Retention through Subsidy Disbursement mechanism, which was endorsed by tripartite constituents. This initiative involved the development of toolsets criteria for SME RMG factories covering the most vulnerable workers whose employment are at risk in economic shocks, the implementation of a thorough assessment and validation process — which the industry partners endorsed — and the development of a grievance handling mechanism. Finally, the format for a dataset for such an emergency subsidy programme was created and modified based on the field experience.
  • Conducting a preliminary feasibility assessment of an unemployment insurance scheme in Bangladesh, entitled “Recommendations on the design of unemployment insurance (UI) scheme to counter the effects of exogenous shocks”. The ILO convened a consultation workshop in November 2021 with social partners to understand their requirements and expectations in introducing an unemployment insurance scheme. The discussion drew on Bangladesh’s labour market structure and trends, unemployment protection and provisions in the formal sector and institutional capacities and feasibility assessments for introducing an unemployment insurance scheme. The tripartite plus constituents welcomed the initiative. 
  • Implementing an advocacy strategy for introducing a social insurance scheme through bi-lateral and broader consultations. This effort included regular follow-up meetings with the line ministry and key UN partners and donors, including the EU Delegation in Bangladesh. The current advocacy strategy will be adjusted based on the findings of in-depth interviews conducted as part of the preliminary feasibility assessment.  
  • Briefing the Ministry of Finance (MoF) on the Social Protection Initiatives, based on discussion with the Ministry of Labour and Employment (MoLE), and presenting the SP&PMF project. The Secretary of MoF has highlighted, during the meetings, the importance of contributory social insurance schemes, including unemployment insurance, given the government’s challenges in financing such schemes. 
  • Government engagement: MoLE’s Department of Labour (DoL) shared the government’s interest to work on the development of Unemployment Insurance with the support from the ILO and EU in a roundtable discussion on “Financing universal social protection during COVID-19 and beyond”, organised together with the Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors, the International Trade Union Confederation and the International Organization of Employers. A representative of MoF contributed to the “High-Level Meeting of Experts – Global Fund Social Protection for All” organised by the network in September 2020.  
  • Supporting the promotion of contributory social insurance schemes through UN’s Immediate Socio-Economic Response Plan (I-SERF), Common Country Analysis (CCA) and the UN Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework (2022-26) with the development partners and UN agencies.



Project partners 

The project was developed in partnership with the Ministry of Labour and Employment, Ministry of Finance, Bangladesh Employers Federation, Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association, National Coordination Committee for Workers Education, IndustryALL Bangladesh Council, European Union Delegation in Bangladesh, research organisations, NGOs working on social protection for workers and Civil Society.


Mr. Tuomo Poutiainen, Director, ILO Country Office for Bangladesh

Ms. Mariko Ouchi, Senior Technical Specialist on Social Protection, ILO Decent Work Technical Support Team (DWT) – South Asia ILO

Ms. Farjana Reza, National Programme Officer, ILO CO Dhaka  

Video: How do employment insurance and active labour market policies help the unemployed? (March 2022) – English subtitles

M.A. Mannan, Minister of Planning of Bangladesh, participating in the consultation meeting “Fostering Unemployment Protection Measures in Bangladesh” (November 2021)

Woman working as a tailor after skills training

Garment workers during the COVID-19 pandemic in Siddhirgong, Narayangonj (May 2020)

Bangladeshi garment employees leaving a clothing plant at the end of their working day

Garment workers in Siddhirgong, Narayangonj (May 2020)