Workforce nutrition directly or indirectly affects productivity, morale, sickness rate, and business turnover
Ensuring proper nutrition in apparel factories will boost workers' productivity and efficiency while reducing absenteeism, experts said on Tuesday.
Workforce nutrition directly or indirectly affects several factors, including productivity, morale, sickness rate, and business turnover, they told a workshop on coordinated workforce nutrition at Six Seasons Hotel in the capital.
The event was organised by the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), a Switzerland-based non-governmental organisation (NGO).
Dr Al Amin Sarker, joint secretary to the Ministry of Industries, presided over the workshop while Kazi Zebunnessa Begum, additional secretary to the Health Services Division, attended virtually as the chief guest.
In his presentation, Dr Shafiun Nahin Shimul, assistant professor at the Institute of Health Economics under the University of Dhaka, said, "One of my studies found that if a factory invests Tk1 in workers' nutrition, the outcome is much more than that in terms of production."
He said individual-level outcomes of ensuring workforce nutrition are higher than the investment. "The outcomes include increased job satisfaction, reduced sick days and mitigated risks of non-communicable diseases."
Dr Shimul said factories that had already introduced such measures were enjoying some benefits, such as reduced absenteeism, enhanced productivity, reduced medical costs up to 30%, and significantly lower rates of accidents and mistakes.
The academician said providing mid-day food at work relieves female workers of the hassles of preparing lunch at home.
"It also gives them more time to have breakfast and reduces fatigue at work in the afternoon."
Dr Md Khalilur Rahman, director general of Bangladesh National Nutrition Council, said, "Lack of nutrition leads to diabetes, cancer and other non-curable diseases."
According to Dr Shimul's survey findings, almost 80% of Export Processing Zone (EPZ) apparel factories provide mid-day meals to their workers.
Also, among Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) member production units, only around 10% provide food to their employees.
Snowtex Group provides free lunch to about 12,000 employees in its two factories in Dhamrai.
Its Managing Director SM Khaled told The Business Standard, "When we give a little more support to our family members [employees], we see less migration [job switching] and this helps us achieve better efficiency. That is why we have been providing free lunch to all our employees since 2015."
Dr Md Mostafizur Rahman, joint inspector general of health at the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments, and Dr SM Mustafizur Rahman, line director of National Nutrition Services under the health ministry, were present at the workshop as special guests.
Syed Muntasir Ridwan, country coordinator of SUN Business Network, also spoke at the event.