Vision Impairment and Productivity Among Female Garment Workers in Bangladesh
A Cohort Study
Munir Ahmed, Mashuda Khatun Shefali, Lutful Husain, Mahbuba Khondaker, Mohammed Alauddin, Mohammad Awlad Hossain, A.K.M. Nurul Kabir, Noelle Whitestone, David Hunter Cherwek, Nathan Congdon, Jennifer L. Patnaik
2022 Volume Publish Ahead of Print, Issue 1, p79-84
To assess the prevalence of near and correctable distance visual impairment among screened participants in the garment industry and to explore associations with income, age, and urban versus rural residence.
Vision screenings were conducted at 4 garment factories, 2 urban and 2 rural locations during September and October 2019. Distance vision impairment was the presence of uncorrected vision of <6/12 in either eye, correctable to ≥6/7.5 with distance refraction. Near vision impairment was defined as 1 or more of the following: 1) either eye with presenting near vision <N8 at 40 cm with distance visual acuity >6/12 in the same eye; 2) having been prescribed near add spectacle power in examination records; and/or 3) clinical diagnosis of presbyopia at the time of screening. Demographic information and monthly income were self-reported by questionnaire completion.
Among 915 participating workers (100% female, 18 to 70 years), 29.2% (n = 267) and 26.8% (n = 245) had correctable distance and near vision impairment respectively. Prevalence of near vision impairment was significantly higher among rural residents (34.2%, n = 160), compared to urban (19.0%, n = 85, P < 0.0001) with the largest differences in the 35 to 39 (68.2% vs 44.2%, P = 0.0019) and 40+ (85.9 vs 48.9%, P < 0.0001) year age ranges. Prevalence of near vision impairment was already high among urban (20.4%, n = 20) and rural (23.0%, n = 17) workers aged 30 to 34 years. In simple linear regression models, participants with near vision impairment earned $13.3 [standard error (SE) 2.44, P < 0.0001] less per month than those without, while urban residents earned $40.6 (SE 1.74, P < 0.0001) more than rural dwellers. In the final multivariate linear model, both near vision impairment ($6.51 lower monthly earnings, SE 1.84, P = 0.0004) and urban residence ($43.2 higher monthly earnings, SE 2.39, P < 0.0001) remained significantly associated with income.
This study found high rates of near vision impairment among female garment workers, particularly rural dwellers, and at a younger age than expected. The high prevalence and association between near vision impairment and lower income suggest that focusing on industries with a high proportion of female workers, such as readymade garments, may be effective in addressing gender disparities in vision impairment and its economic impact.
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