Marginalised Workers in South Asia demand for Transformative Social Protection

Participants who attended the South Asia Social Protection SeminarThe Bangladesh Occupational Safety, Health, and Environment Foundation (OSHE), the Hong-Kong based Asia Monitor Resource Centre (AMRC), and the South Asian partners of the Asian Roundtable on Social Protection (AROSP) co-organised a meeting of grassroots workers organisations from different South Asian countries to discuss the issue of social protection.

The programme was held at the BRAC Inn Centre, Dhaka, Bangladesh where 41 representatives from 30 grassroots worker organisations from the informal economy, trade unions and labour NGOs in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka had participated.

The meeting aimed to deepen the understanding of the marginalised workers in the region on social protection issues and to formulate common social protection demands that South Asian marginalised workers who can jointly campaign for at the sub-regional levels.

AROSP deems that the deepening inequality and the growing informal economy in South Asia is very alarming. About 31 per cent of the total South Asian population are living on less than USD1.25 per day. The majority of the workers in South Asia, especially the women, have been marginalised in the society due to the dispossession of rights, livelihood, and common goods.

This is very apparent in the case of a victim of the Tazreen fire incident two years ago. Jorina Begum, Coordinator of the Tajreen Fashions Fire Accident Victims Network shared, "I feel bad that my life has changed since the Tazreen fire. Before the incident, I was the one who took care of my family. Now, I do not have any means to support them. I get loans from my neighbours but I feel so ashamed to do so. My neighbours rebuke me because I cannot pay my loan."

Aggravating the difficulties of the marginalised informal workers is the absence of social protection and the increasing job and income insecurity. Like the case of the Tazreen fire victim, most marginalised workers in other parts of South Asia does not have safety nets when they lose their jobs and source of income. Anandini Padhi, a grassroots organiser for over 25 years from Orissa, India, states that, "Workers in the agricultural sector, forestry, home-based, and domestic work in India are usually invisible and not covered by social protection."

It is amidst of these glaring realities, the AROSP network calls for a transformative, rights-based social protection that can easily be accessed by the marginalised workers across South Asia. It underscores that the provision of social protection is the state's responsibility. As a culmination of the two day meeting, the participants have come together to form a South Asian Alliance that will work to pressure the South Asian governments to adopt a grassroots-oriented social protection, the participants are committed to building a strong alliance of marginalised workers in South Asia that will actively campaign for social protection for all.

Fore more information, please contact with: Repon Chowdhury, Bangladesh Occupational safety, Health and Environment Foundation (OSHE), E-mail:


OSHE is specialised labour foundation promotes Labour Standards, Decent and Green Jobs at national level. It's the platform for major national trade unions centres working together on different development issues based on common position. The foundation maintain constructive working relations with the government, employers' organisations and other social actors on policy development matters, better work, social protection, issue of sustainable employment and decent livelihood of workers at the formal and informal economy. OSHE foundation supports the national efforts towards achieving the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDG) through different workplace actions.

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