Proximity to industrial centers increases employability, according to the BIDS study

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A study has found that proximity to industrial areas tends to offer more manufacturing job opportunities, particularly for female workers, thereby bridging the gender gap.

The participation of women living in remote districts of industrial belts like Dhaka, Gazipur and Chattogram in export-oriented manufacturing industries is lower, the study shows.

The study’s findings were presented at a seminar “Exports and Gender Disparities in Manufacturing Employment” organized by the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS) on Wednesday at its auditorium in the city’s Sher-e-Bangla Nagar.

Under the chairmanship of BIDS Director General Dr. Binayak Sen, the event was chaired by BIDS Senior Research Fellow Dr. Kazi Iqbal and Gonoshathaya Kendra founders Dr. Zafrullah Chowdhury held.

The study was conducted by Md Moniruzzaman, a PhD student in the Department of Economics at the University of Melbourne in Australia.

The researcher, who is also an assistant professor in the Faculty of Economics at Dhaka University, said employing more women in manufacturing will help uphold equity, improve women’s empowerment and increase women’s participation in the economy increase household decision-making.

The purpose of the study is to measure whether a location’s geographical proximity to surrounding export-oriented factories can create higher employability for people living nearby, he said.

The gender gap in manufacturing employment is a key constraint on output and overall growth in low-income countries like Bangladesh, he said, adding that this study examines how export-based employment opportunities relate to the gender gap in export employment and in the non-exporting manufacturing sector.

The measure of proximity is based on road distance (between each location and the garment factories) and is subject to endogeneity, he said.

The study shows that the participation of women from the southwestern districts of Bangladesh in the manufacturing sector is lower than that of the women living in the districts near Dhaka and adjacent districts.

Explaining the reasons for this, he said that because of the distance from Dhaka and the crossing of the Padma River, which takes time and money, women are less interested in coming to manufacturing centers to look for work.

However, Mr Moniruzzaman’s findings were somewhat challenged by the panelists at the event.

dr Iqbal pointed out that the lower participation of women in manufacturing could be due to circumstances other than just the distance of a worker’s household from industry.

He also said the study fails to link the lower participation of women workers in manufacturing and its relationship to the country’s export trade.

Also, issues such as education, skills, household income, living conditions in cities, etc. were not given importance by women in the study.

Meanwhile, said Dr. Sen in the country’s RMG sector, age is an important factor for women’s work in a factory, as the participation of women aged 32 and over is only 3.0 percent, as most of them do not prefer it to work after marriage.

Over 80 percent of women working in the RMG industry are single, while 60 percent of men working in the same industry are married, he said.

So it’s not just distance that discourages women from being involved in manufacturing, there must be some other factors holding them back, he commented.

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