The year 2013 was a fateful one for the Bangladesh textile industry. Not long after workers received a pay increase, an industrial building housing several garment factories collapsed. The Rana Plaza disaster killed over 1,100 workers. Since then, workers and their representatives have negotiated to raise one of the lowest minimum wages in the world, often without much success.
Most of the textile industry in Bangladesh is centered around ready-made garments. 55% of the growth achieved by the industry from 2002 to 2012 came from this market segment. It is the only multi-billion manufacturing sector and export industry currently operating in the nation.
Until the 1980s, most of the textile industry was state-owned in Bangladesh following their 1971 liberation. Over 85% of the total capacity was controlled by the government. Privatization came in 1982, with the textile factories being returned to their original owners after the government seizures.
What attracts people to the Bangladesh textile industry is its combination of cheap labor, low product pricing, and shorter lead times when compared to other providers in Southeast Asia.
Fascinating Bangladesh Textile Industry Statistics
#1. Over 3.5 million employees receive opportunities because of the textile industry in Bangladesh, with surges creating an additional 700,000 job openings at times. (The Asia Foundation)
#2. Textiles, clothing, and garments have driven economic growth in Bangladesh, with the industry achieving a 6% annualized rate of growth since 2007. (The Asia Foundation)
#3. More than 4,500 factories work with textiles in Bangladesh to produce a variety of different products for the domestic and export markets. Most of the factories are located around Dhaka. (The Asia Foundation)
#4. Bangladesh is currently the second-largest exporter of clothing products in the world today. China is presently in the top-ranked position. (The Asia Foundation)
#5. 80% of the export earnings Bangladesh achieves each year comes through the textile industry in some capacity. Total revenues in 2015 reached $3.2 billion, which was a record high for the nation. (Word Finance)
#6. 61% of the exports sold globally by the Bangladesh textile industry are destined for the EU-28 each year. (World Finance)
#7. In December 2018, the minimum wage for workers within the Bangladesh textile industry rose by 51%. The new minimum wage was set at 8,000 taka per month, or the equivalent of $95. The previous minimum wage was 5,300 taka, or $63 per month. (Fashion United)
#8. 3 out of 5 employees working in the Bangladesh textile industry are unable to meet their production quotas on a regular basis. Some private enterprises have set targets as high as 20 shirts converted from textile resources in a single hour. (War on Want)
#9. 85% of the employees in the Bangladesh textile industry are women, with most of them reporting that they cannot read. 80% of the workers put in a minimum 12-hour shift each day, with 14-hour shifts common. Those hours fall outside the legal limits imposed by the government, yet enforcement of expectations rarely occurs. (War on Want)
#10. Fewer than 25% of the apparent manufacturers in Bangladesh have agreed to transparency about the working conditions in their factories. (NPR)
#11. About 130,000 bales of cotton are produced in Bangladesh each year to support the activities of the domestic textile industry. Another 6.2 million bales of cotton are required each year to support the overall production activities. (U.S. Department of Agriculture)
#12. Over $400 million in foreign direct investment is received by the textile industry in Bangladesh each year. (Textile Today)
#13. Total imports for the textile industry rose by almost 15% in 2017, with over 80% of the value due to the import of machinery meant to expand production capacities. (Textile Today)
#14. Export earnings for the textile industry in Bangladesh total more than $3 billion per year, with 83% of the revenues earned due to apparel sales from domestic textile use. (World Finance)
#15. 3 out of every 4 women working in the Bangladesh textile industry report being verbally abused while working their shift. 50% of women said they’d been physically abused as well. Most workers within the industry retire before the age of 45 because they cannot withstand the factory environment. (War on Want)
#16. Three-quarters of the manufacturing activities which take place in Bangladesh are centered around the textile industry. 75% of the value added to the industry goes to producers or retailers, not the growers or industry workers. (Oxfam)
#17. None of the products created by the textile industry in Bangladesh are sold domestically. It is one of the largest industries in the world which is a 100% export industry. (Ritsumei)
#18. The United States, Canada, and the EU-28 provide over $1 billion each to the Bangladesh textile industry each year. (World Integrated Trade Solution)
#19. Almost 9 million spindles operate within the Bangladesh textile industry each year, supported by over 230,000 rotors. That creates a total capacity of 2.05 billion kilograms each year. (Fashion2Apparel)
#20. The textile industry currently operates over 30,000 looms in Bangladesh, but only 1,000 of them are classified as being power looms. They offer another 2.55 billion meters of annual production capacity. (Fashion2Apparel)
#21. Workers are still using more than 500,000 hand looms to create products for the textile industry in Bangladesh. They contribute another 8.37 billion meters of total capacity. (Fashion2Apparel)
Bangladesh Textile Industry Trends and Analysis
Workers received about 50% of the minimum wage they requested in December 2018. Earning their first raise in five years is a critical first step for the success of the textile industry. More must be done to promote transparency, however, as the working conditions in factories remain questionable.
Although the employment opportunities are offered to women, the standard of living is quite high compared to the wages offered. A 1-gallon container of milk is priced at 246 taka. Purchasing one pound of beef round averages 233 taka. A monthly transportation pass to and from work is 1,200 taka. For a standard 900 square foot apartment, the average rate is 2,900 taka with utilities included.
Even with pricing at 55% of U.S. norms, the minimum wage doesn’t go far in Bangladesh. Many workers can’t afford their rent, much less the food needed for their families. More must be done to support these workers and their access to basic living wages, but that will only happen if the three most significant purchasers of exports make a statement about these working conditions.
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