Rana Plaza anniversary: 1 in 5 survivors in poor health

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Six years on from Bangladesh’s Rana Plaza tragedy, one in five survivors’ health is deteriorating.

Despite the international outcry following the building collapse at Rana Plaza, which killed 1,134 mainly female garment workers, more than half of survivors remain unemployed due to the physical injuries and psychological impact of the disaster. The unemployment rate among the survivors has increased almost 10% in the last two years, according to an annual survey of survivors’ health, wellbeing and economic security, published by ActionAid today.

The survey tracked 1400 Rana Plaza survivors since 2013, interviewing 200 of them this year and found:

  • 20.5 % said that their physical health condition is getting worse;
  • 51% remain unemployed due to their physical injuries and poor mental health;
  • Of the unemployed survivors: 74% could not get back to work due to physical injuries and 27% due to poor mental health - as a direct result of the incident;
  • 10.5% are still suffering from trauma;
  • Only 15.5% of the employed survivors have returned to the garment industry.

Rana Plaza was the world's deadliest industrial accident since the Bhopal gas leak in India in 1984, yet Bangladesh remains the world's second-largest exporter of fast fashion to Europe and the US. Under the radar of international attention, around 500 workers have been injured and several dozens killed in Bangladesh’s garment industry since Rana Plaza.

Women make up the lowest grade positions in the garment industry with only 0.5% of management positions being occupied by women. These women lack job security, compensation for injuries sustained at work, pension and insurance. Worse still, a growing body of evidence more recently shows female garment workers suffer regular sexual harassment and abuse at work.

Yet these four million workers are producing a $30 billion USD industry for Bangladesh, with ready-made garments comprising 83.49% of Bangladesh’s exports[4]. Although global inequality is played out on the factory floors. ActionAid’s 2010 research from India showed that a worker in a factory would earn less than 2 cents for every $5 T-shirt sold internationally.

Farah Kabir, Country Director of ActionAid Bangladesh, said:

“Today’s new research from ActionAid shows that survivors still remain economically insecure as a result of the Rana Plaza tragedy. Compensation is piecemeal, which has slowed down the rehabilitation of the injured. Promised funding for a hospital for the injured has not been forthcoming. Six years on from the crisis, injuries which may have been treatable have now set in as life-long ailments.”

ActionAid, part of the Clean Clothes Campaign, is calling for the government of Bangladesh to establish and legislate for an employment injury insurance system, which would mean compensation would be distributed immediately following a workplace incident.  Brands agreed six years ago to clean up their act on health and safety. But for the garment sector to be future proof, these women need a broader level of protection than just building safety, they also need to be safe from sexual harassment and abuse at work.

To address the high prevalence of Gender Based Violence (GBV) increasingly revealed to be perpetrated against women at work, ActionAid and partners are also demanding the International Labour Organisation (ILO) agree a convention against violence and harassment in the workplace.


For further information, contact the ActionAid UK media team on email: alice.gillham@actionaid.org or jess.midwinter@actionaid.org; or if out of hours, call +44 (0) 7753 973 486.

Notes to editors

1. ActionAid is an international charity that works with women and girls living in poverty in over 40 countries. Our dedicated local staff are helping end violence against women and girls and changing lives, for good. We won’t stop until women and girls are out of danger, out of poverty and on track to create the future they want.