The results in context
Thanks to sustained economic growth figures of 6-8% annually for the past decade, Bangladesh is set to graduate from Least Developed Country-status in 2024. This will provide new opportunities, but also new responsibilities. For instance, it is expected that more than 2 million youths will enter the job market annually in the decade 2020-30. The importance of skills and job creation among Bangladeshi youths can therefore not be overstated, but these challenges will increasingly have to be faced without donor support.
In addition to youth, skills and jobs, PSD activities in the reporting period focused on the readymade garments (RMG) sector. The RMG sector accounts for more than 80% of Bangladesh’s export revenue and is under heavy strain from regional competition. Due to its lucrative nature and the high degree of politico-economical interconnectedness, the sector is sensitive to political tensions, which hampered some of the results.
During the reporting period and within its programme activities, the Netherlands also focused on women’s empowerment as a cross-cutting theme. This meant
1. close co-operation with the work done under the gender theme, such as activities that include financial inclusion and/or female entrepreneurship components,
2. monitoring the gender components in the existing RMG portfolio and
3. exploring the potential to encourage female inclusion and entrepreneurship as keystones of overall private sector development.
Narrative on results achieved
During the reporting period, the Bangladesh Youth Leadership Center project successfully addressed skills and leadership development among Bangladeshi youths, creating awareness and increasing coherence among students from different education systems. At the same time, the project also links students to the job market through events and career programmes. During the coming period, there will be no adjustment to the planning of the project.
As for RMG, the Netherlands programmes focused on improving conditions throughout the value chain in the RMG industry in Bangladesh, through projects with the International Labour Organization (ILO), the German Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and International Finance Corporation (IFC). The Netherlands retains an influential position in the Bangladeshi RMG sector, partly due to its programme involvement. Since the RMG sector is such a dominant economic sector (in terms of its contribution to overall employment as well as export earnings), decision-making in the sector is highly intertwined with the political sphere. This has resulted in volatility in the relationships between the stakeholders during the reporting period, which had an effect on programme results: out of the cumulative target of 560 factories (by the end of 2021) implementing a plan for local prevention, mitigation and remediation of RBC risks, 170 were reached in the reporting period.
For the ILO project, fewer factories could be supported in finalising their remediation plans (167 out of 248 – although 248 was an end of year target and reporting took place in June 2018), although interestingly a substantial amount of factory workers were reported to have better working conditions. For the IFC Partnership for Cleaner Textile project (PaCT), the limited progress (three factories reached from the six-month target of five, [overall three-year target: 180]) reported has to do with the indicator chosen: Phase II of the programme had just started and it is expected that the number of factories will catch up as the programme progresses. For the GIZ project, there has been considerable difficulty in getting the GoB on board for a trial on Employment Injury Insurance, despite repeated political commitment in the past.
Considering the multi-year span of these three programmes, as well as being on track with other indicators not reported here, it is expected that the programmes will be able to catch up on these indicators, especially considering that the ILO has already revised its overall target for factories under the Better Work Bangladesh (BWB) programme in close consultation with donors. Therefore, no adjustment is required.