Retailers in Bangladesh are reluctant to hire female employees and persons with disabilities because of safety and security issues and the perception towards women that they have limited capacity to endure physical strain. Only 2% of the retailers are willing to hire persons with disabilities.
Retail employees work for an average of 11 hours a day in a single shift and mostly can avail annual leaves but are not usually granted maternity or paternity leaves. Only half of the workplaces have policies to protect their employees from sexual harassment.
These findings have come in a baseline survey by BRAC, conducted to create employable skills and decent work opportunities for the marginalised youth.
The findings of the survey were unveiled at a webinar titled “The future of skills and employment in the retail sector”, organised by BRAC’s Skills Development Programme (SDP) today on Tuesday (15 June 2021).
The survey also reveals existing skill gaps of the salespersons engaged in the sector. Of the employers 68% said their sales their salespersons are unable to meet the sales targets set for them by the management; 54% stated their salespersons lack communication skills; and 64.6% have mentioned that their sales staff’s knowledge of the products is inadequate.
But the good thing is most workplaces are equipped with safety equipment - 93% in Sylhet, 82% in Chittagong, 72% in Dhaka, and 56% in Khulna. Alongside, 98% of the retailers in Chattogram, 92% retailers in Dhaka, 89% retailers in Khulna and 56% retailers in Sylhet have made arrangements so that their sales staff get enough light, air and safe drinking water.
The findings of this survey were revealed at the event followed by a panel discussion. Organisers said BRAC’s skills development programme is working towards creating employable skills and decent work opportunities for marginalised youth. A retail sales module and a competency standard have been developed under this programme, which is the first retail sales module in Bangladesh to be accredited by the Bangladesh Technical Education Board (BTEB).
The survey, conducted under SDP’s “Progressing the retail sector by improving decent employment (PRIDE)” project, interviewed 720 respondents from the retail sector employers and employees based in Dhaka, Chattogram, Khulna and Sylhet. Funded by IKEA Foundation and UBS Optimus, the project in partnership with the retail sector and Bangladesh government will create a model to provide sustainable livelihoods to low-income urban youths.
Innovision Consulting Ltd carried out this baseline survey commissioned by BRAC’s skills development programme.
Panelists present at the discussion were Asif Saleh, executive director, BRAC, Shaheen Khan, chief executive officer, Gemcon Food and Agricultural Products Ltd, and SM Shahjahan, deputy director, Bangladesh Technical Education Board. TasmiahTabassum Rahman, head of business development and strategy (current in-charge), SDP, moderated the discussion.
BRAC currently provides training to the underprivileged urban youths through classroom-based and apprenticeship-based approaches. Of the total learners, 60% are female and 7% persons with disabilities. BRAC has partnered with the private sector to implement the training programme.
Identifying mindset and social barriers as the most important problem in the retail sector, Shaheen Khan said, “There needs to be a cultural and mindset shift for people to come and join in the retail be it management or non-management level. Even though entry-level employees learn fast, there is still a large chunk or group of employees who move quite frequently within the sector that remains a major challenge. The employees need to receive training regularly to gather skills, but it must have to be a continuous process so that the contents of the training are also revised regularly depending on the demand”.
Asif Saleh said, “Potentially employees will not be interested to gather skill if he/she does not get enough incentive despite being skilled. Also, stakeholders need to run campaigns to change the existing perception about the retail sector employment. BRAC and partners can work together on finding out the neediest people and arrange training for them so that potential candidates join the workforce after being skilled which will create a win-win proposition for all.”
BTEB deputy director SM Shahjahan said, “Recruiters must develop a hierarchy showing entry level of a potential candidate and the destination which will discourage recruits to frequently opt for a job switch. If the trained people get preference in entrances, it will help develop a training-oriented culture in the sector. Also, a person must be provided with a certificate after completion of training so that the employer can judge skills while hiring an employee.”