Report: Employment and working conditions in Bangladesh’s leather industry


Despite Bangladesh's importance to global leather and footwear supply chains and the importance of the sector to the country itself, it has not yet succeeded in establishing good labour standards. This study analyses a survey in which 120 workers from 26 tanneries in Savar provided information on demographic and household characteristics, employment and wages, workplace conditions and occupational health and safety, and the future of tannery work. The survey was conducted by Bangladesh Labour Foundation (BLF) and (RAPID).

The study focuses on the relocation of many tanneries from Hazaribagh to Savar and the unfulfilled promises of improvement that came with it. In Savar, too, workers face familiar and even additional new challenges. These include problems with housing and transport, poor school and medical facilities, and little or no improvement in health and safety and labour rights. Added to this is the separation from families caused by the relocation of production sites. Employment in the tanning industry also remains highly gender discriminatory, with companies reluctant to hire female workers. Wage increases and benefits are minimal in the industry and more than half of the workers interviewed earn less than the legal minimum wage. Tannery workers toil for long hours, sometimes with forced overtime, and are subject to the whims of their employers because of scant union activism and weak workers’ representation.

The survey shows that 111 of the 120 interviewed workers were employed on a non-permanent basis. Of the surveyed workers, 95 percent were appointed without a signed contract or any other formal employment arrangements, which leaves them without any written confirmation of their employment terms and without any proof of employment. More than half of the surveyed workers (56 percent) received a monthly wage that was less than the national minimum wage of Tk. 13,500 ($ 158) set by the government for tannery workers. Three-quarters of those interviewed work without proper protective gear, and 79 percent lack training in how to use chemicals safely during tanning work.

The report offers a series of recommendations to various actors. As a priority, BLF, Rapid and Together for Decent Leather are calling upon employers in Bangladesh to respect the rigths of workers and put in place in-factory grievance mechanisms as well as to make use of external judicial and non-judicial grievance mechanisms.

Further publications

This paper was created with the financial support of the European Union and various other funders, including the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (Rijksdienst voor Ondernemend Nederland) and Mondiaal FNV. Its contents are the sole responsibility of the authors of the Decent Leather consortium and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union or the other funders.

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Schuhe, Leder, Arbeitsbedingungen
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