The Garments Industry of Bangladesh


After the liberation the jute industry became weaker and now the garments industry is the main pillar of the economy of Bangladesh. It plays the key role in the export sector of the country. This potential sector not only creates the indigenous job opportunity but also achieve international recognition .To solve the unemployment problem and pace the economic development the contribution of this sector is very significant. But this enormous potential sector is suffering from unrest for a long time. Owner worker conflict, low wage, lack of worker safety etc. are the main reasons behind this unrest. It is the high time to get rid of all this problems and keep forward this industry.

The scenario of Garments industry in Bangladesh

In Bangladesh first garment factory was established in 1977 in a very small scale. This industry started with 50 factories in 1980. And in the year of 1985 more 125 factories added in this sector. From the year of 1985 this industry became large. In the last few years due to international demand and local entrepreneurship the number of industry comprises 5600 industries (source: BGMEA). At present more than 5 million women workers are working in this sector (source: Economic Review 2013). Most of the workers are illiterate or semiliterate. About 80% of export earning comes from this sector (source: Economic Review 2013). Until December of the fiscal year 2012-13 the earning of this sector was 10 billion and experts that this amount will increase in the next fiscal year. So there is no doubt in the importance of this sector in the economy of Bangladesh.

Market of the garments industry of Bangladesh

Bangladesh is 2nd in world textile export. The RMG sector of Bangladesh is gradually creating an unrivalled market. European Union is the largest biggest buyer (58%, Source: BGMEA) of RMG products. European Union is the second biggest buyer (23%, Source: BGMEA) of RMG products. About 30 countries including Canada buy RMG products from Bangladesh. The market of garments industry is expanding day by all over the world.

Competitor of Bangladesh

At present Bangladesh accounts for 5.0 per cent of world RMG export while China's share is 30 per cent. But China is slipping from its top position, losing 5.0 per cent of its contribution annually due to labor shortage and high labor costs. Most of the lower end RMG products may have already been captured by Bangladesh. The prospect for sequestering the upscale products also looks bright. Even Chinese investors are coming to Bangladesh to explore export possibilities from here. On the other hand, leading garment buyers in the world are increasingly relying on Bangladesh RMG sector to meet their needs. The other competitors of Bangladesh are Vietnam, Indonesia, Cambodia Sri Lanka and India.

Major causes behind the development of RMG industry in Bangladesh

Cheap labor is the main reason behind the rapid development of garments industry in Bangladesh. With compare to other countries the wage of the garments worker is so poor. In the last 10 years the actual wage of garments worker reduces .27% (source: the daily prothomalo,15th July,2013).According to WRC the garments workers only get 14% wage for survival.

Garments workers wage rate according to country

(click column header to sort results)
Wage per hour (USD)  
Sri Lanka
Garments workers wage rate according to country

Source: The Daily New Age, August 13, 2010

So it is seen that due to low wage rate Bangladesh is the favorite to buyers. Internationally recognized companies for instance wall mart, GAP, Metro, H&M , JC Penney etc. companies like Bangladesh most.

Contribution of garments industry in the economy of Bangladesh

...Garments industry is contributing in the economy of Bangladesh for the last three decades. Now it is the highest exporting product of Bangladesh. Garment sector is the largest employer of women in Bangladesh. The garment sector has provided employment opportunities to women from the rural areas that previously did not have any opportunity to be part of the formal workforce. This has given women the chance to be financially independent and have a voice in the family because now they contribute financially.

Source: BGMEA, 2013

Garments industry is the largest contributor to export GDP of Bangladesh. It contributes 16% of the GDP in 2012. According to the Bangladesh Economic Review, 2013 the contribution of RMG in the GDP is 11539 million USD which is the 79.6% of the total export in the fiscal year 2012-13.

RMG sector also helps other sectors like spinning, dyeing, knitting, finishing, printing etc.

Problems of RMG sector of Bangladesh

Though the garments industry is developing day by day but there are some acute problems in this sector. Some important problems are given below:

  1. 1. Low wage rate

This is the same reason which is helpful for the factory owners but this is the main cause for sufferings for the poor workers. Moreover sometimes the workers don’t get the due in time. This problem creates worker unrest. Often the workers come to the street for protest. Sometimes they vandalize garments factories, vehicles and other private and public property.

  1. 2. Lack of safety

There are many safety problems in garments factories.

2.1 Building collapse

1129 workers died (source: BGMEA) in the collapse of 8 storied building Rana Plaza in April 24, 2013 at Aminbazar, Savar. It is the most horrible industrial disaster in the history of Bangladesh. This disaster drew the attention all over the world. Beside the Savar tragedy there is another incident occurred which is known as Spectrum tragedy. 64 workers died in that building collapse. Most of the buildings don’t follow the building code.

Rana plaza

2.2 Fire hazard

It is the most common hazard occurring often in the factories. In a fire hazard occurred at 2012 at Tazrin Fashions killed 112 people. 55 workers were killed in 2006 at KTS Garments and 30 workers were killed in 1990 at Sharika garments (source: BGMEA). 431 worker were killed in 14 fire hazards from 1990 to 2012 (Source: BILS). It is mandatory to have fire exit, adequate firefighting equipment in the factories. But most of the factories don’t have these facilities.

3. Sexual abuse

The women workers often face many problems including sexual abuse. The factories and the residential areas are not safe for them. Moreover they also face problem on public transport and road. The law enforcement authorities help them most of the time.

4. No trade union facility

The garments workers have no trade union facilities. So they don’t have the opportunity to raise their voice for their rights.

  1. 5. Political Unrest

Political unrest is a big problem for the whole RMG sector. Both workers and factory owners are suffering from this. Moreover many buyers dislike Bangladesh because of this particular problem.

6. Poor living environment

It is a big problem for the workers. The housing facility of the workers is very poor. The housing condition and the surrounding environment are not up to the mark. Most of the time, the workers don’t have the water supply, electricity and sanitation facilities.

Steps taken to solve these problems

  1. The Jatiya Sangsad, Bangladesh’s Parliament, has passed the Bangladesh Labor (Amendment) Bill 2013, under which workers would not need to seek approval from their employers to form trade unions.
  2. An Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh is a five-year legally binding agreement between international labor organizations, non-governmental organizations, and retailers engaged in the textile industry to maintain minimum safety standards in the Bangladesh textile industry was signed on May, 2013 .
  3. ILO, EU, Bangladesh government adopt new compact on garment factory safety .The new compact aims to improve health and safety, labor rights and responsible business conduct in Bangladesh’s ready-made garment industry.
  4. Eleven of the brands and retailers sourcing from the factories involved in the Tazreen and Rana Plaza disasters joined high-level compensation meetings, facilitated by the ILO as a neutral chair, on 11-12 September in Geneva.
  5. Government recruited some new RMG inspectors and more are under process.


1. Ensure adequate salary for the workers.
2. Building should be constructed with fire resisting materials 3. Building code should be followed strictly
4. Adequate exits and proper escape routes should be designed
5. Protection against fire and smoke should be ensured
6. Electrical wiring must be properly designed, installed and maintained
7. Escape routes should be lighted at all times, kept clear, be indicated by signs
8. Regular fire drills should be held
9. Doors should be protected and should open along the direction of escape
10. Doors should not open on the steps and sufficient space should be provided.
11. Smoke/Fire alarm systems must be installed
12. Adequate number of extinguishers should be provided
13. Prior relationship with local Fire services should be established

14. Social safety should be ensured for the women15. Compensation should be given to the victim of several tragedy including Tazrin Fashions and Rana Plaza.

16. Workers should be given opportunity to form trade union

17. Coordination should be increased among Government, Factory owners, Workers international organizations and buyers.

18. Political parties should be more careful in creating a safe environment for the this sector


It is no doubt that RMG sector has a huge potentiality. To save this promising sector it is the high time to solve all these problems against this sector. There are so many issues have to be given attention. There is a hope that some steps already been taken and some are in process. Moreover buyers are now playing more effective role in solving the safety problems. But these are not enough. It is knows that situation should not be changed overnight but we have to try heart and Soule.

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