Garment Industry in Bangladesh: Global Competitiveness Drives Need for Alternatives

By Amy Chang

The ready-made garment (RMG) industry has been the main contributor to transformative growth in Bangladesh in the last four decades, but in more recent years it has drawn international attention for its poor working conditions. In 2013, collapse of the Rana Plaza building in the capital city of Dhaka killed 1,130 people, putting Bangladesh in the international spotlight for labor reform. The response to this incident, however, has been largely PR-based and failed to create long-term change. In many ways this is unsurprising, as unfortunately international retailers are faced with increasing global competitiveness, creating difficulty in pushing for higher standards and regulation.

As exploitative as the current situation can be, the industry has created jobs for millions and produced extraordinary economic activity in a once poverty-ridden country. Since the arrival of RMGs in the 1970s, the poverty rate in Bangladesh has fallen from 70 percent to 40 percent. Clothing manufacturing accounts for almost 80 percent of exports and generates more than $20 billion in revenue annually. Apart from creating employment for more than four million people, the RMG industry has also made great strides in empowering women financially. In the industry, 90 percent of workers are female; unlike many developing countries where women can still obtain a role in the agricultural sector, women in Bangladesh typically do not work outside the home. The arrival of RMGs has changed this and spurred an exodus of poor rural women into cities to become crucial financial providers for their families, and prevented many young Bangladeshi women from marrying underage.

RMG

A worker spins yarn onto bobbins in the Wooltex Sweaters Limited factory in Shewrapara, Dhaka. In 2008, the Asian Development Bank loaned $50 million to the Bangladesh Ministry of Education to improve the skills of millions of workers in the ready-made garments and textiles, light engineering, and construction industries. Photo courtesy of the Asian Development Bank.

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ADB President Reflects on Lessons from Asia’s Development

By Samantha Prior

Asia has been a key driver of global economic growth in the 21st century, and will remain a key theatre for development in the coming decades as one of the fastest developing regions in the world. Economies in the region grew at a rate of 6.1% in 2013 and 2014, and growth is forecasted to increase to 6.2% for 2015. However, poverty levels remain troubling, with nearly one-third of the population of Asia living on less than $1.51 per day in 2010.

ADB Headquarters in Manila

ADB Headquarters in Manila. Photo available under the public domain.

The President of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), Takehiko Nakao, recently put out his “Eight Key Actions for Economic Development in Asia”. Citing Asia’s “remarkable progress in development and poverty reduction,” Nakao seeks to explain why some Asian countries have developed more rapidly than others. He outlined eight key action areas that lead to success:  infrastructure, human capital, macro-economy, investment and trade, governance, equality, vision for the future, and security and stability.  While all eight categories of action are crucial for development, four of Nakao’s points should be highlighted: Continue reading

Weekly Roundup

This week in development…

U.S. Development Policy/International Organizations

  • As the 2015 deadline for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) approaches, access to sanitation and safe drinking water remains the ‘least improved’ A recent UN report found that 2.5 billion people lack access to basic sanitation facilities, while 1.8 billion people use contaminated water sources.
A water kiosk in Chipata, Zambia providing clean and sanitary water.

A water kiosk in Chipata, Zambia providing clean and sanitary water.

  • United Nation’s Population Fund (UNPF) recently released a major report on the State of the World Population. The report focuses on the economic potential of the 1.8 billion ‘youth bulge’, referring to the large global youth population many of whom are unemployed. The report estimates Africa’s growth to boost by a third if the continent invests enough in the younger generation. PPD earlier this year launched the Global Youth Wellbeing Index highlighting policies needed to capitalize on these demographic changes.

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Weekly Round-up

This week in development…

  • USAID has announced that they will tap into an emergency trust fund – one that has not been touched since the global food price spike and crisis in 2008 – to respond to the extreme food insecurity in South Sudan. “The scale of the suffering and humanitarian need there is shocking, and the threat of famine is real,” said National Security Advisor Susan Rice in a statement profiling the $180 million that will be drawn from the fund.  The account being drawn upon is specifically allocated to Food for Peace programming, and intended to meet emergency or unanticipated food aid needs.
  • August 18 is the 500 day milestone until the target date to achieve the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. The questions of “were the MDGs successful?” and “where do we go from here?” have begun to dictate the discussions and work of the development community, as attention shifts towards the post-2015 development agenda. Brandon Stanton, the photographer behind the acclaimed street photography blog Humans of New York, has partnered with the UN to take a 50-day “World Tour” to raise awareness of the MDGs and informally track their progress.
Zaatari Refugee Camp in Jordan, courtesy of Humans of New York http://www.humansofnewyork.com/post/94726975821/the-zaatari-refugee-camp-is-twelve-kilometers

Zaatari Refugee Camp in Jordan, courtesy of Humans of New York http://www.humansofnewyork.com/post/94726975821/the-zaatari-refugee-camp-is-twelve-kilometers

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