Blog: Leonie BarrieHow Bangladesh has moved from "basket case" to bellwether

Leonie Barrie | 1 May 2018

Last week marked the fifth anniversary of the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory building in Bangladesh: the world’s worst industrial accident, where more than 1,100 garment workers lost their lives.

Not surprisingly, the anniversary also dominated coverage on just-style. We reflected on what has changed, what hasn't – and what still needs to be done – with a roundup of views from key stakeholders on what has been achieved over the past five years.

But we also took the opportunity to salute the massive progress that has been made in transforming the country from "basket case" to bellwether – and all led by the apparel industry.

And Ranjan Mahtani, chairman and CEO of Epic Group, one of the biggest garment exporters in Bangladesh, told just-style why his belief in Bangladesh continues to drive the company’s growth and expansion.

For a full roundup of our coverage, including a timeline of all the changes that have been made to improve worker and building safety within the country's ready-made garment industry over the past five years, and a list of all the companies who have now signed the new Bangladesh '2018 Accord', click here.

While there continue to be concerns about the low wages paid to ready-made garment workers in Bangladesh, Mike Flanagan suggests that buying more from the country would not only be in the interests of US brands and retailers – as well as helping to boost wages.

But the World Bank has proposed that employers in developing countries should be able to opt out of paying the minimum wage and have greater hiring and firing powers as part of a deregulation of labour markets aimed at making humans more cost-competitive with machine labour.

Hong Kong-based apparel manufacturing giant Crystal International has boosted communication with more than 5,000 workers at its Yida denim jeans factory in China thanks to the launch of a new smartphone app.

Sportswear giant Adidas has begun to ramp up production at its Atlanta Speedfactory, with the Made for New York City (AM4NYC) running shoe reaching retail.

Levi Strauss has been criticised by an international environmental organisation for its "outsized role" in climate change and air pollution across the globe.

And the boss of German sportswear maker Puma has described the threat of a trade war between the United States and China as "a headache," and says the company is evaluating shifting its sourcing to alternative countries in Asia should the tit-for-tat trade spat ramp up.

Meanwhile in other news, Adidas and Reebok remain at the top of a fashion transparency index; the European Union (EU) and Mexico have reached a new agreement on trade; and House of Fraser has entered into acquisition talks.

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