Bangladesh in brief: apparel industry snapshot
- Total number of apparel workers: 3.5m (about 80% of workers are women).
- Location of factories: Dhaka-Ashulia-Savar cluster; Gazipur, Narayanganj and Chittagong districts.
- Source of workers: Poor migrants, mostly uneducated young women.
- Contribution of labour to production cost: Most factories rely on cheap labour for cost-effective production, yet wages account for most of the factories' operating costs.
- Contribution of apparel exports to Bangladesh's total exports: Bangladesh exported US$12.496bn worth of apparel worldwide in the 12-month period from July 2009 to June 2010. It accounted for 77% of the country's total exports of US$16.204bn during the year.
- Minimum Wage Board's 2010 recommendation for apparel workers: Minimum entry level wage of BDT3,000 (US$43) per month.
- Wage set by government in 2006, effective till 31 October 2010: BDT1,662 (US$24) per month.
- Workers' wage demands in 2010: Minimum BDT5,000 (US$72) per month. Initial demands for BDT6,200 (US$89).
- Rise in living costs since 2006: 200% on food, 100-200% on house rent, transportation and others.
- Re-adjustment of wages since 2006: No re-adjustment.
- Annual wage increments: Most factories ignore increments; many factories pay the 2006 minimum.
- Number of non-compliant factories: Government investigations found 30% of factories are non-compliant, while most of the remaining 70% have few workers under living wages that can be compared with other cheaper countries such as, Cambodia, Vietnam, India and Pakistan.
- Sweatshop conditions in 'compliant' factories: Over 90% of the factories claiming to be compliant have one or more sweatshop conditions, including delays in promotion and pay rises after training entry level workers; irregular or reduced pay; low overtime benefits; long working hours; poor working conditions; absence of paid leave and medical facilities; absence of maternity benefits; absence of occupational safety and protection; absence of conveyance and housing; neglect of trade unionism and labour laws.
- Child labour situation: Significantly improved.
- Entry of journalists into 'compliant' apparel factories: Fully restricted; even in factories that claim to be compliant, the owners are rarely available to respond to journalists' queries about work conditions.
Sources: Government of Bangladesh and other research.
By Jahir Ahmed.
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