According to the last World Bank annual ratings, Bangladesh ranked 168 among 190 countries in ease of doing business. Our businesses frequently face many challenges, like bureaucratic hassles, weak infrastructure, unskilled human resources, and energy crises.
Business leaders and economists often discuss these challenges in different forums, and respective departments, in response, take remedial actions from time to time. But, while addressing the challenges of private sectors in Bangladesh, the discussions and follow-ups always seem to revolve around administrative complexities and physical and human resource limitations.
The issues of the implementation of labour laws, adjustment of wages and employee rights have often been ignored.
As a consequence, private jobs have become less attractive to millions of graduates. Over 3.5 lakh candidates appeared in the 44th Bangladesh Civil Service (BCS) preliminary exam, competing for only 1,710 posts.
Many graduates have been appearing in the BCS exam for several years and plan to continue attempting the test until their age permits. Someone may ask why our graduates work so hard and wait for so many years preparing for uncertain government jobs when they can become successful in life by joining private jobs? The answer to this burning question lies in employee management of the private sector.
Neither the government nor business owners have shown necessary concern for employee remuneration or compensation, job security, promotion criteria, workplace environment, retirement benefits and overall employee rights in private jobs. As a result, our working population thinks government jobs are the only secure career paths.
On the one hand, the government cannot offer jobs to all graduates, and, on the other hand, the private sectors have become unattractive to our graduates. The unemployment rate is also increasing every year.
In this situation, we must realise the role of highly motivated human resources in the overall business sector. Our economy can only grow sustainably if we can motivate our young generation by offering them attractive career paths, and if we can attract more foreign investments by branding our human resources as strengths.
Even after 50 years of independence, we have failed to set examples of implementing existing labour laws. Limitations of the labour act, employee-unfriendly nature of rules, and non-implementation of existing laws make our private sector less attractive and unreliable to most employees.
As per our Labour Act 2006, the term 'owner' means the person who can make major financial decisions for a company without consulting others, and 'labour', on the other hand, refers to the worker who follows the leadership of an administration.
The 'labour act' does not recognise any positions between these two groups, and it does not talk about what would happen to those employees who fall outside the scope of these definitions.
Additionally, section 2 of the act recognises some institutions like non-profit hospitals, educational institutions, research institutions and training institutions that would not fall within the confines of the labour act.
Moreover, according to section 3(1), an establishment may set its own service rules while appointing workers following its requirements and convenience. Although some reputed multinational companies design rules with the best policies, our local companies seem to manipulate employee interests while preparing terms and conditions.
As per the law, company rules should not contradict provisions made in the labour act. However, companies in practice do not take into consideration the employee side, and often impose terms and conditions based on company interests.
Moreover, they may even revise those rules anytime. Regardless of what the policy dictates, the prevalent practice is that companies hold the authority to hire or fire anyone anytime under any circumstances.
In most local companies, employee benefits, leaves, and other facilities depend on the mercy of the authority. The administration overburdens employees with workloads. Employees work extra hours sometimes from home and compromise their personal and family lives to fulfil the targets and meet the declines.
After taking on such professional pressures throughout their lives, when it comes to retirement, benefits such as provident fund, gratuity and other components are neither significant nor guaranteed.
Many employees who feel victimised during their job tenure believe they lack the power and necessary support to challenge company policies and bring the matter to court. As per the section 202(24) of the Labour Act 2006, a worker union has the power to bargain with the employer regarding employment, terminations and working conditions, but the establishment of a collective bargaining agent like a trade union or employee organisation is not mandatory for all private companies.
Companies take advantage of this weakness of the law and do not allow employees to form any 'union'. Consequently, employees develop a negative view of work-life, where they feel they have no control over what happens to them.
In conclusion, the weak employee management in the private sector creates a widespread distrust between employers and employees in Bangladesh. Such negative attitudes pose barriers to the development of the private sectors of our country.
To improve the situation, the Labour Act 2006 should be revised to include and protect the rights of every citizen who works in the private sector as an employee. Simultaneously, the government must ensure the implementation of laws to protect this sector.
Md Kawsar Uddin is an assistant professor of English at the International University of Business Agriculture and Technology (IUBAT).
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of The Business Standard.