A research conducted by the National Board of Revenue (NBR) has found claim of bidi factory owners false as the number of bidi workers is only 46,000 against 2.0 million claimed by them.
NBR officials said every year an influential quarter in the board remains active at the time of budget exercise for not to increase tax on bidi, placing the data on involvement of a large number of workers.
Like the previous years, they are trying to motivate the policymakers this year too claiming that the huge number of workers will be unemployed during the Covid-19 pandemic, the officials added.
To counter such claim, the NBR conducted the research last year to find out the actual number of bidi workers in Bangladesh.
In its study, the NBR has recommended increasing supplementary duty (SD) on bidi, levying a portion of SD as specific tax and spending additional revenues earned on alternative employment of bidi workers.
The research titled 'The Revenue and Employment Outcome of Bidi Taxation in Bangladesh' was conducted with financial support from World Health Organisation (WHO) and technical support from American Cancer Society, Brac and Dhaka University.
It has found that there is a total of 46,916 full-time equivalent workers, including those regular, irregular, and contractual, in bidi factories.
Labouring in the bidi industry is full of life-threatening risks, but with very low payment (on average a monthly income of only Tk 1,972), it said.
The NBR research recommended utilising surplus revenue earned from the bidi sector for training and employment generation for the laborers to rehabilitate workers.
"The government will have to take multiple economic initiatives for alternative employment opportunities of bidi laborers," it said.
During the study, some 78.4 per cent of bidi laborers stated that they want to quit such hazardous job if rehabilitation initiatives are taken by the government.
The NBR research also recommended exploring alternative employment opportunities by the private and public initiatives in districts with bidi factories through the collaboration of National Tobacco Control Cell, NBR and the Ministry of Labour and Employment.
It suggested working jointly with NGOs, bidi labour associations and civil society organisations in order to remove the bidi labourers from the hazardous profession and facilitating appropriate education, training and employment opportunities locally for the women, children, old-aged and handicapped bidi labourers.