Decent Work in Global Supply Chains

Street Vendors will lead future Bangladesh


Street vendors in the city areas is very familiar profession in Bangladesh. Now a day hawkers are visible in every major street and sub-street even in lane of any areas. But usually hawkers operating business at busy public places have a higher income. Unemployment, unskilled, less opportunity, educational qualities and various natural calamities pushed labour force from rural to urban with insignificant amount of capita.
Accordingly there is no scope of substitute employment to join profession for survival so a huge number of unemployed population is now in the labour market of Bangladesh through street vending, but this work is unrecognized and unprotected self-employed population by the state as well society for lack of legalization.

Usually hawkers are involved in selling ready-made garments and fabric items, cosmetics to shoes, homemade foods, groceries, vegetables, fruits, books, flowers, re-used materials etc in low price. Their major buyers are low and middle income people.

It is very difficult to provide an accurate estimate of street hawkers since there is lack of reliable governmental data in this regard. According to the hawkers’ leaders of different reputed hawker’s union, the total number of street hawkers in the country is about 2.5 millions. Hawkers’ leader Mr. Kamal Siddiki, president of Bangladesh Chinnomul Hawkers Samity, revealed the information.

“Hawkers Survey 2010: No Alternative Way to Formulate National Policy for Hawkers” a survey, conducted by Bangladesh Chinnomul Hawkers Samity, is an important source that has tried to estimate total number of hawkers. As per the survey report there are 23, 97,100 hawkers in Bangladesh.

Nazrul (35), is vending in front of Shihu Park (National Children Park in Dhaka) said that people choose vending for various reasons such as it does not require any technical knowledge or skills, academic education; it only requires low capital investment; easy to enter; local available resources etc.

Mr. A R Chowdhury Repon, General Secretary of Labour at Informal Economy (LIE) informed that, in 2012 they conducted a sample based survey on hawkers. The survey showed that hawkers of the country work for a long hour, generally 10 to 15 hours every day, which starts from early morning and continues till night. Besides their daily average income is low, ranges Tk. 101 to Tk.500, which varies from place to place too. There is a high tendency among the hawkers (81.7%) to borrow money from their relatives at the end of the month. With regard to having any kind of fund to face emergency situation almost all of the respondents have reported that they have no capability to accumulate any kind of fund.

Female hawkers earn about half of that of males, and sometimes even less than the child hawkers, and male hawkers very often do not allow female to sit on the pavements. However, over decade significant numbers of female has been entering in street vending occupation and child labour in street vending work is alarmingly increasing.

Most of the hawkers work in open places and do not have any shed over their heads. Latrine and safe drinking water facilities are generally not available. Different types of physical hazards are frequently seen among the hawkers. Besides, frequent destruction of products by policemen; fall of product’s quality; stealing of products; and damage of products due to rain or other causes are some other common hazards for the hawkers.

Consequently, hawkers suffer from both economical crisis and mental stress. To operate business at pavement a hawker is required to pay particular amount of money, ranges from Tk. 30 to Tk.300 every day, as bribe (salami) to including local political leaders, local policemen, line man, local bazar committee, hawkers’ samity/union and even in somewhere to government authority as well, though unofficially.

Social protection is still dream to the hawkers. Because the nature of the informal sector and employment pattern, common social security benefits (e.g. provident fund, gratuity, pension, maternity allowance and leave, group insurance) are not available for them. They even are not protected by the existing social safety-nets of the government. On the other hand, government evicts hawkers without taking any step to rehabilitate them somewhere else.

Besides there are negative sentiment and perception of elite classes and civil society groups adjoin this occupation as some of them believe that it hampers free movement of citizens in the footpath, cause of traffic jam etc. Employer organization demands for hawker free city for protection of their good business. But none of these elite groups had never ever given a proper through on social impacts of permanent eviction of street vendors from the society.

It is not an unlawful occupation and removal of street vendors from their occupation is a clear violation of human rights, said Mr. Siddiki. As an immediate impact of permanent evacuating of street vendors, the lower and middle class people in society will further lose their pursing power in market economy, the unemployed street vendors and their dependent family members will be bound to engage in unsocial activities for their survival and the social crime and unrest will be increased in absence of suitable alternative employment and proper social rehabilitation for them by state authority.

The overall condition of the hawkers as exposed many deficits in decent work situation of the hawkers. In order to ensure decent work for them Mr. Chowdhury said that, it will be difficult, but not impossible to recognize them. Legalizing street vendors is therefore risky, but better planning will help the city corporation authorities manage the increasing problem of city dwellers. He recommended that some steps might be taken by authorities selecting and fixing places for hawkers and ensuring basic facilities at workplaces; removing all sorts of workplace hazards, risks and exploitation etc. So that street vendor can do business without fears and give taxes which are currently collected illegally by certain parties, could contribute to city tax in terms of global supply chain.

Street vendors are part of global supply chain as they contribute national and global economy. Therefore recognition of Street vending is a time being demand.

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