Study on Socio-Economic and Educational condition of Tea Worker at Sylhet in Bangladesh  

Ahmad I.1 , Yasin M.1 , Rowshon A.1 , Rafikul Hoque A.K.M.2
1. Department of Food Engineering and Tea Technology, Shahjalal University of Science and Technology, Sylhet-3114, Bangladesh
2. Project Development Unit, Bangladesh Tea Board, Srimangal, Maulvibazar, Bangladesh
Author    Correspondence author
Journal of Tea Science Research, 2015, Vol. 5, No. 5   doi: 10.5376/jtsr.2015.05.0005
Received: 17 Jul., 2015    Accepted: 18 Aug., 2015    Published: 11 Oct., 2015
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Ahmad I. and Yasin M., 2015, Study on Socio-Economic and Educational condition of Tea Worker at Sylhet in Bangladesh, Journal of Tea Science Research, 5(5), 1-8 (doi: 10.5376/jtsr.2015.05.0005)


Bangladesh is one of the largest tea contributors among south Asian countries in world’s tea market as well as a good consumer of tea. The very future of tea gardens greatly depends on tea laborers who spend most of their life in the tea garden. But, so to speak, they have been living in misery from the very beginning of the establishment of tea gardens in Bangladesh. As being humans and/or for the betterment of the tea gardens, they deserve better life than they are now living. It is simply an attempt that has been made in this paper to understand the socio-economic condition in some of the tea gardens of Sylhet division which actually reveals the socio-economic conditions of tea workers as a whole that are yet to be exposed in our country. This paper deals with different aspects of socio-economic conditions of tea labors insinuating on some intriguing issues of social, economical, political and educational status of these deprived people. Special attention has been underscored on the knowledge of the people regarding importance of education where only 8% of tea labors of our survey sample go to different colleges whereas highest percentage of them (around 54%) just attended primary school. The investigation also took attention on health conditions of tea workers which shows that around 75 out of 100 people suffer from different diseases. The paper also investigates the economic conditions of tea labors that show the highest income of a tea worker family is near about 12000 tk per month that was actually 4% of survey sample. However, the average income of a family of a garden is 6245 tk. per month that is too little for a worker to live a lower class lifestyle along with his/her family. Other attention also took place on marital status, sanitation condition, trade union membership, the amount of child labor etc. It has been suggested in the paper that all out efforts must be made to raise awareness among the tea gardeners   about human rights and related matters.

Socio-economic condition; Tea workers

1 Introduction
Bangladesh is a tea producing country. There are many tea gardens in this country where many tea laborers find their livelihood. According to Bangladesh Tea Board there are 87,534 registered and 20,065 non-registered tea workers who work in 163 tea estates of Bangladesh. Most of the tea estates are located in the Northeast of the country where our study was conducted. Tea brings much desired cash for Bangladesh, but those who work on the ground to produce it are very much less fortunate people. The people working in different tea gardens all over the country have been leading a life of untold misery. And the tea laborers have a community of their own apart from the mainstream. The living conditions of the people in tea gardens are worse than we can expect especially economical, social and cultural side of their life. There is a contention that the women, children, and adolescent girls are the most vulnerable groups in terms of human rights condition in tea gardeners. Unfortunately there is hardly any development program initiated either by the government or non-government organization in tea garden area. Even though the government has undertaken various programs for the citizen of Bangladesh, but the tea gardeners become out of the implementation of these programs. This is unfortunate that the laborers of tea gardens make major contribution to the entire production of tea, but the deterioration of socio-economic condition of the laborers did not get adequate attention from any corner.

Generally, it is assumed that the people working in different tea gardens all over in Bangladesh have been leading a miserable life but the real situation is yet to be investigated. Very few micro-level studies on tea plantation workers have been done so far. The findings of some studies show the sub-human life of tea workers both in terms of working environment, living conditions and health and sanitation security (Khan, 1991; BPMI, 1997; Saha 2001; Majumder and Roy, 2012; Ahmed et al., 2014). As most of tea workers live below the poverty line (Barkat, et al., 2010) and their poor income (Ahmed et al., 2014; Majumder and Roy, 2012) often lead them to live without basic human rights. Laborers are to accommodate themselves in a small dilapidated house, sometimes with their pet animals (Das and Islam; 2006; Majumder and Roy, 2012). Workers living in tea gardens are not facilitated with sanitary toilet rather majority of them are inured to use open place for excretion of faeces (Khan, 1991), even they are very unaware of or often ignore their rights regarding  sanitation (Das and Islam; 2006). Even faeces are generally disposed to nearby water bodies or throwing in the jungle (Chowdhury et al., 2011). Open defecation causing various excreta related diseases and not practiced with washing hand after defecation (Ahmed, et al., 2006). High rate of illiteracy, ignorance, social exclusion, economic hardship, etc. bound them to maintain traditional life without minimum opportunities.

Workers of tea gardens, in total, are deprived of housing, food, clothing, health, education, etc. which are basic human rights. This violation of rights causes various kinds of problems  in the society such as poverty, illiteracy, drug addiction, disease, crime, juvenile delinquency etc. Therefore, socio-economic condition and educational status of tea workers is a field of investigation that can be useful for society as well as tea gardens. In respect of present study following objectives were considered;
(1) To know the socio economic and educational condition of tea garden workers.
(2) To inform the tea workers about human rights.

2 Methodology

This study had been carried out in different tea estates of Sylhet division. For the study we selected some tea estates where 2000 people were surveyed. The selected gardens are Malnichara, Lukkatura, Langla, Gazipur . In this study secondary data collected from garden authority, books, journals, newspapers, and internet etc. Primary data collected through interview schedule from the respondent. This research involves collection of data in order to answer question regarding the current status of the subject of the study. A semi-structured questionnaire was prepared for interview the respondent. Random sampling procedure has been followed to select sample for the study.

As the respondents were selected purposively, so their age limit was not under consideration. Among the participants majority were between 25 to 40 years and nearly one-fifth were between 40 to 55 years. It was also found that few of them were below 20 years or under aged. More than halves were female workers. The research is descriptive in type. We conducted this research to describe the human rights condition of tea garden community. Descriptive research is also known as statistical research, describes data or characteristics about the population or phenomena being studied. For the analysis of data simple statistical method is used.

3 Results & Discussion:

The findings and the results by the analysis are given below:-

3.1 Population Distribution

Our study revealed that, we took different aged people for our study. 32% of the population belongs to the age group of below 20 years. 58% of the people in the age group of 20-59 years and the people above age group 59 is 10% of sample population. The result shows that are the real earning member of the society, which is the active workforce of the community, are the highest in percentage. And people below 20 years are mainly child labors. Similar data was found in Assam’s research (Saikia et al., 2013)

3.2 Marital status of workers:
Our study shows that 94% of the workers are married, 4% are widower, 1% widow and 1% unmarried. A study in Assam shows that 83% of the workers are married, 8% unmarried and 9% widow (Devi, 2014). Similar study was conducted in the china. They found 73% of the tea workers are married. When people married, they lead separated family. If they do it they find new house and other facilities from the authority. As for that most of the respondents were married and family was nuclear in type. (Figure 1) (Figure 2).

Figure 1 Population Distribution in age 

Figure 2 Marital status of the tea workers 

3.3 Earning members of the family
Most of the family member involve with work. Our study found that 34% of the families have two and three member working in their family. And only 1.33% families have six members working. Their works are fixed. If occurring any inconsistency in their family than they does extra work in the garden. Some family cultivates various kinds of vegetable and rear domestic animal like cow, goat, chicken, hen etc. in their home. We see there are more earning members in one family then dependent or unemployed. At least 2-3 person is working in a family as the mean is 2.89 that is, 3.

3.4 Number of child worker per family (0-18)
Child work is common in tea garden, for this every family has child worker. Our study found that 54.67% family has one child worker in their families and only 13.33% families have no child worker in their family. That did not mean there is no worker; it is because that they become adult. Das and Islam (2006) found that Child labor is rampant in tea gardens. Poverty is the main reason why children are forced to be engaged in some income generating activity.

3.5 Monthly income per family
The tea worker works hard but they get low salary. Average monthly income of a worker is 1340 Tk. It is not sufficient for a people in this time in Bangladesh. Because, food price and others goods price increases in our country. Therefore, they cannot deal healthy life in the tea garden. Our study showed that 20% of the families earn 5000-6000tk and 4% families earn 11000+ tk. The mean income of a family 6246, which is very low. This 6246 taka is earned by at least 3-4 people in a month. This is very much pathetic. The tea workers work in the garden from 9 am. To 5 pm. And to ensure them pick up 20 kg tea from the garden. Some people works as a wood carpenter and pump driver etc. in the tea garden. They get salary 55taka per day. This is very much pathetic and against the human rights as there a right to pay equal to work. In the social security issue, they are not getting any kind of security from government. The tea garden authority provides 5 kg rice per tea worker but most of the tea worker. After many years working they get 55000 taka at a time. (Devi 2014) showed that in Assam 92% workers have their average monthly income of Rs. 1000 to Rs. 5000 while, 12% of them have Rs. 5001 to 10000 and another 1% have Rs. 10001 to 15000. Thus it is concluded that majority of the respondents have their average monthly income of Rs. 5000 or below. Due to the severely low wages in Sri-lanka, industrial action took place in 2006; Wages in the tea sector were increased with the average daily wage earned in the sector now significantly higher at 378 rupees for men and 261 for women in some places. (Figure 3) (Figure 4).

Figure 3 Monthly income per family 

Figure 4 Housing Structure 

3.6 Housing Structure
It was observed that people in the study area usually made their house using tin, sun grass/bamboo and mud. Most of the houses were built with mud (53%) while few houses are made of sun grass and bamboo (18%).

3.7 Electricity facility

The electricity facility in our tea garden is not good. People of higher authority get the benefit of electricity but the tea worker hardly gets this chance. Tea garden with town areas is enjoying the facility of electricity. Contrary to the national average of 31.5% of the households using electricity (BBS, 2003) only 13.4% of the tea garden households and 14.5% in ethnic minority community had electricity supply (Nath et al., 2005). In our study we show 71% household have no electricity where 29% have them.

3.8 Safe water used by Tea workers
Hand pumps are the most common source of water supply in the Tea Garden. Notably, one hand pump is provided for 4 to 5 families at an average (Saikia et al., 2013), which is a much higher ratio compared to the norms followed by the water supply programmes of the Government of Bangladesh. However, mostly shallow hand pumps are used in the Tea garden. In our study we saw that tea workers are not well aware of using safe water. Few of them use tubewell water while most of them used water supply founding them nearby.

3.9 Sanitation condition in tea gardens workers

Regarding the condition of toilets, it is unfortunate that a substantial part of the people under the study use open space as toilets which is very unhealthy and prone to various sanitation related diseases. It is clear from the fig. that as much as 55% households are using open space toilets. Sanitary toilet is comparatively low (30%) tea estate. Which is similar to study conducted by Chowdhury et al., 2011. But in the study it has been found that most of the sanitary toilets provided by govt. and Tea Company are in damaged situation due to improper construction and ill management.

3.10 Land Holding Pattern

The size of land holding by the respondent determines their status and economic position. The average size of land holding varied from 0.1 to 4 square yard. Most of the respondent in the study owned land below 2 square yard. The holding range 2-3 square yard was owned by 37% of the total samples.

3.11 Trade union membership

There is a trade union in this garden. But this is just defective.  As they said to us that “the trade union is an organization that is existing only by name”. We find only a few respondents who are the member of trade union. In spite of the slow activities of the trade union, some people are seemed to be satisfactory by the activity of the trade union. But the most people are not satisfied on trade union activities. Most of the people said that, “the trade union activities are unseen and they take bribe from the authority for closing the movement” which was there duty for the betterment of tea gardeners. Recently they were active when salary increases. They want to increase trade union activities and reject bribe which is given from authority. Yet most of the people glad for that, their salary increase by the movement of trade union. (Figure 5-10).

Figure 5 Electric facility of tea workers 

Figure 6 Water used by Tea workers 

Figure 7 Sanitary condition 

Figure 8 Land Holding Pattern  

Figure 9 Trade Union Membership  

Figure 10 Satisfaction on the Trade Union 

3.12 Condition of medical care in the local medical center
In local medical center primary health service provided. Medicine of general diseases also provide in here. In critical disease, they refer to Medical College and so on. Tea garden authority bears all cost of these services. Tea gardeners said different condition about the service of medical center. But the quality of it is not good. They did not say well about this center. (table 1 and 2).

Table 1 Condition of medical care 

Table 2 Diseases in families 

There we find that they sometimes go to the ‘Kobiraz’ if they need. In the local medical Centre, as they said, “there are the only the drugs of fever”. Various kind of disease attacks on the tea worker. In our research finding, we see that Diarrhea and Fever basically attack on most of the tea workers family. In spite of this we find some families where diseases of parents also lie on children. We find 3-4 cases like that. There is also occupational disease like; pains in the body etc are present among the tea workers.

3.13 Inclusion on politics

The people are not included on politics. Some are included but only as a supporter mostly. The percentage is shown below. (Table 3).

Table 3 Inclusion on politics 

Most of the respondents do not have any idea about politics and political parties of Bangladesh (Das and Islam, 2006). They said that politics is not for mine; rather they said that, politics is for them whose have enough money. Most of the people do not participant in the election. If they get time after works then they provide vote in the election.

3.14 Educational status of the family members

The maximum respondents were totally illiterate. They had no chance of education, they said “we are here for working and not for education, the authority were against to educate us”. So, they are illiterate or have little education. They also said “now there is no restriction to educate their children “Educational status of the family members of the respondent’s Educational status of the family members of the respondents is in very lower situation. In our findings we see that most of the people finish their study after class five. Without these many person not went to school for one single day. This is shown in a table below. (Table 4).

Table 4 Educational status of the members  

Education is the optional thing to them, they work very much. Das and Islam (2006) found that 59% of the tea workers are illiterate. Majumder and Roy (2012) also found around 60% respondents are illiterate; on the other hand, below 1% have completed above secondary level of education. They actually can’t go for education and there is the human rights violence. The reason we find that there is the unconsciousness of parents. They said that “children are not eager to go to school”. That means they do not pay attention on education. They think after a few years’ children can join to work and that’s all.

3.15 Knowledge/idea about human rights

Most of the people don’t have any idea about human rights. They are very much normal to their lifestyle. But, we find some people who are concerned about it. The community people don’t cause any harm or any violation. In tea garden area sometimes occurs stealing and other offence but community people said that this offence happen by outside people. Community people do not involve in such activities. (Figure 11).

Figure 11 Human Rights Knowledge 

It has been seen that the consumption of the tea increasing day by day. Now we consume around 58,000 Metric Tons of Tea per year (Ahmad et al., 2013). But the production of tea was not as much as needed. There are several reasons for which tea production is hampering. We think the condition of tea workers is one of them. If the condition of the workers were good they may be interested in work more and try to increase the production.

4 Conclusion

As a tea producing country, Bangladesh is well known in the world. From that point of view, tea workers and their contribution to the GDP is not negligible. Moreover, these workers as being human should have all kind of human rights whereas they are mostly discriminated in our society. From the above discussion, it is concluded that tea garden’s workers are still lagging behind in terms of socially, economically and culturally. The most responsible reason that comes forward from our study is illiteracy because literate people are always aware of their rights. It is the duty of the society, Government and all other agencies related to tea gardens, to make them literate, culturally reach, and economically stable so that they can live an acceptable life without being deprived of human rights and can contribute in the tea garden immensely which will flourish our economy in greater extent .

5 Recommendations

1. Tea workers might be made aware of their basic rights and needs, governance, labour laws of the country through proper training and learning project.
2. The Government might compel the garden authority to take steps to educate the tea workers in a proper way.
3. Extensive socio-economic development programs, especially income generating activities need to be introduced by Governmental and Non Governmental organizations in the tea garden areas.
4. Electricity, pure drinking water and scientific sanitation supply must be ensured.
5. For decreasing the child labor the guardians should be made aware of its disadvantages. Besides, programmes for poverty alleviation may be undertaken.
6. Frequent communication between the people of tea gardens and mainstream society should be arranged, so that the mainstream people do not undermine the status of tea gardeners.
7. Extensive training on existing important laws and human rights laws of the country should be arranged in the tea garden and participation of all the members of the panchayat committee must be ensured. The panchayat committee should be strengthened, so that it can play a vital role in resolving any kind of problems occurring in the tea- gardens. The participation of common people in the functions of each panchayat committee must be ensured.
8. The employers must create socially congenial working environment in the work place.
9. Government of Bangladesh might be diligent in implementing the labor laws and must take action to solve various problems faced by the tea workers.
10. The organizations which deal with human rights should be invited to work among the tea worker.


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