Bangladeshi women in banking lead South Asia in career aspirations: IFC report

Published at : 13 June 2024, 01:30 pm
Bangladeshi women in banking lead South Asia in career aspirations: IFC report

A new International Finance Corporation (IFC) report reveals that women in Bangladesh’s banking sector have the highest career aspirations among emerging South Asian economies, with 89 percent aspiring to progress to senior roles, compared to 79 percent in Nepal and 70 percent in Sri Lanka. 

While greater participation of women in the workforce and leadership holds immense business potential for Bangladesh, the report—based on research across seven commercial banks in the country—reveals that the ambition gap—the difference in career aspirations between men and women—is the least in Bangladesh among the countries surveyed, reported UNB. 

It reflects the likelihood of men versus women aiming for senior roles, showing a closely matched level of ambition among Bangladeshi bankers.

Globally, companies with better representation of women in leadership report a 5–20 percent increase in profits on average as a result. For instance, commercial banks with 15 percent or more women in senior management positions command up to 33 percent higher return on equity.

“Investing in women is key to unlocking the full spectrum of Bangladesh’s talent and catalyzing sustainable growth—crucial drivers for Bangladesh’s economic expansion,” said Imad N. Fakhoury, IFC's Regional Director for South Asia. 

“In the banking world, where numbers often reign supreme, invisible barriers still limit the ascent of many skilled women. By collaboratively redefining policies, processes, and cultural norms, we can build a more inclusive banking sector that benefits from the might of its entire workforce.”

This pioneering report, ‘Women’s Advancement in Banking in Emerging South Asian Countries,’ aims to optimize opportunities for women to advance their careers in the banking industry. 

It focuses on private-sector commercial banks in Bangladesh, Nepal, and Sri Lanka, where women constitute 30 percent of the banking workforce compared to the global average of 52 percent. 

In Bangladesh, women represent 18 percent of the overall workforce and 19 percent at the entry level, signaling the need to expand the talent pipeline and support progression to leadership. 

The report calls for ambitious goals to boost women's representation, advocating for inclusive workplaces, tailored professional development, fair performance evaluations, work-life balance, and supportive networks. 

The recommendations aim to support and guide industry actors—top leaders in commercial banks, policymakers, industry bodies, and investors—to build on successes and bridge remaining gaps to increase women’s representation and leadership in Bangladesh’s banking sector. 



Provident funds to pay 27.5% tax

Published at : 20 September 2023, 04:57 pm
Provident funds to pay 27.5% tax

Companies and organisations will be required to file tax returns on the income generated by employee welfare funds from the current fiscal year and pay a 27.5 percent tax on the earnings. 

The Income Tax Act 2023 incorporates the provision, lifting the tax exemption and amnesty on the compulsion to file returns for funds such as provident funds, gratuity funds and workers' profit participation funds maintained by the private sector.

The law, however, has exempted government-managed provident funds from taxation, raising questions.

TIM Nurul Kabir, executive director of the Foreign Investors' Chamber of Commerce & Industry, said there were many other avenues to collect tax.

"Employees benefit from provident funds after their retirement. So, the authority should not slap taxes on retirement benefit."

He said while levying the tax, the government has not treated provident funds of the private and public sectors equally.

"It is discriminatory," he said, adding that they would appeal to the tax authority for the withdrawal of the tax on income from provident funds.

Debabrata Roy Chowdhury, director for legal, regulatory and corporate affairs at Nestlé Bangladesh PLC, said the introduction of income tax on trust funds would lower the overall income from such schemes.

"This will have an adverse long-term impact on retired employees of private organisations."

Chowdhury urged the authority to address the issue in line with the spirit of the government's initiatives aimed at ensuring social security for private sector employees.

"The recent introduction of the universal pension scheme for private sector employees is a good example of that."

A senior official of the NBR, on condition of anonymity, said the income of government-managed provident funds was exempted in line with the Provident Fund Act 1925.

He said provident funds under the private sector had been historically exempted and there was no requirement to submit tax returns. As a result, it was unclear whether the funds were properly utilised.

"From now onwards, we will see proper disclosure."

The tax official said the contribution of payroll tax is about 3 percent of the total income tax although it should increase as the economy is growing.

Md Shahadat Hossain, a former president of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Bangladesh, said income from investment in savings certificates, where people invest as a source of future earnings, is already taxed.

"From that perspective, the imposition of tax on provident and other employee welfare funds seems okay."

However, Towfiqul Islam Khan, senior research fellow at the Centre for Policy Dialogue, said social protection for private sector employees was low.

"Provident and other workers' welfare-related funds provide little social protection. The imposition of tax will increase inequality. But there can't be any discrimination in taxation between private and government provident funds."

Khan, citing the latest income tax law that replaced the Income Tax Ordinance 1984, said the NBR tried to find new avenues to increase tax collection and improve the nation's revenue-gross domestic product ratio, which is one of the lowest in the world.

"We can see the desperation of the tax authority to boost collection. This ultimately reveals the inability of the NBR to catch the tax evaders and illicit money makers."