The UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) together with Asia’s financial wellness platform Wagely and a consortium of QuizRR and Ulula have committed US$556,000 to improve the financial and digital inclusion of RMG workers in Bangladesh.

Founded in 2013, Quizrr uses digital training solutions to educate employees in supply chains and beyond on issues such as employment rights, workplace safety, and social dialogue, using a bottom-up approach. While, human rights technology and data company Ulula aims to improve working conditions by sourcing and processing accurate and timely insights directly from workers and communities.

Through this commitment, UNCDF will provide performance-based grants and technical assistance, including mentorship for partners on human-centric product design, client outreach with a focus on women, partnerships, data analytics, and reporting support.

In Bangladesh, the RMG manufacturing sector employs more than 4m people, of whom 2.5m are women, according to a report published by the Asian Center for Development. Following the devastating impact of the ongoing Covid crisis during 2020-2021, the sector is now recovering, with opportunities to improve environmental, social and governance (ESG) sustainability to strengthen the sector’s competitiveness, growth, and potential for further investment. Utilising digital services has the potential to accelerate these opportunities and improve the decency of work and livelihoods of people employed in the sector.

“UNCDF is proud to partner with Wagely and Quizrr and Ulula to improve livelihoods, particularly for women, and sustainability in the ready-made garment sector in Bangladesh through digitalisation, following the devastating impact the pandemic has had on the sector with some $3bn worth of cancelled orders in 2020-2021,” says Maria Perdomo, regional coordinator in Asia for UNCDF.

Tobias Fischer, CEO of Wagely, adds: “With UNCDF’s support, Wagely will accelerate its ‘Earned Wage Access’ service in Bangladesh, which allows employees to receive accrued wages before payday, and is proven to increase productivity and retention of employees. In addition, Wagely will introduce additional financial wellness solutions, in particular for female workers, helping ready-made garment workers reach financial resilience and inclusion.”

These investments came as a result of the UNCDF project ‘Promoting Digital Ecosystem Solutions Addressing Women Livelihoods in Bangladesh through Ready-Made-Garment Sector Sustainability amidst Covid-19 and Beyond.’

Launched in the wake of the pandemic, the project applies a market systems development approach to advance the digital service ecosystem in Bangladesh with a focus on digitally-enabled business models to benefit ready-made garment manufacturers and their employees.

Under this project, UNCDF released an assessment of the RMG sector in Bangladesh that analysed opportunities and suggested recommendations for digitalisation to improve livelihoods and the sector’s sustainability and, subsequently, selected partners to implement these recommendations.

Following the implementation of the two solutions by 2022, UNCDF can continue its work with the mobilisation of investment capital, such as loans and guarantees, and further technical assistance.

UNCDF’s work in Bangladesh is part of the global ‘Leaving No One Behind in the Digital Era’ strategy, which aims to equip millions of people by 2024 to use innovative digital services in their daily lives that will empower them and contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

Sofie Nordström, founding partner and deputy CEO of Quizrr, says: “Quizrr’s gamified digital training, powered by real-time data, allows participatory suppliers to effectively accelerate their human rights due diligence efforts and engage their employees with training on several key topics such as rights and responsibilities, worker engagement and digital wages, to build capacity and track worker’s digital and financial literacy.”

Antoine Heuty, CEO of Ulula, adds: “The impact of the pandemic has demonstrated the need to put workers first in order to create more resilient and sustainable supply chains. Through this project, we are combining our worker engagement technology with Quizrr’s digital capacity building system to create an integrated solution for RMG workers in Bangladesh and beyond.”

Bangladesh took a step forward in eliminating child labour in March, ratifying the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Minimum Age Convention, 1973.