The Bangladeshi government is to set up a new minimum wage board to review the pay of ready-made garment (RMG) workers and pave the way for an increase in wages.

The apparel sector is the country's main foreign currency earner, but has faced mounting criticism as its garment workers are among the lowest paid in the world.

Poor workplace safety has also been thrown into the spotlight after the collapse of the Rana Plaza building, which housed five garment factories, last month.

The new wage board will include representatives from the government, factory owners and workers.

"The new wage will come into effect from 1 May," Abdul Latif Siddique, textile and jute minister, told reporters after the meeting in the capital Dhaka yesterday (12 May).

The decision to form a minimum wage board is also intended to cool worker unrest.

The existing entry-level minimum wage for a RMG worker was fixed by the previous wage board in 2010 at BDT3,000 (US$38.53). Prior to this, the minimum wage was raised to BDT 1,662 (US$21.35) a month in 2006, up from BDT940 (US$12.07) fixed in 1994.

The garment industry is Bangladesh's largest foreign currency earner, constituting more than 16% of the gross domestic product (GDP), nearly 80% total export receipts, and providing direct employment to around 4m people, of which 80% are women.

Atiqul Islam, president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), told just-style that RMG owners would abide by the recommendations of the wage board.

More than 1,125 bodies of workers have so far been pulled out of the rubble of the collapsed eight-storey Rana Plaza building - making this the worst industrial accident in the country's history.