Bangladesh’s garment industry is responsible for nearly 80% of the country’s exports – mainly to Europe and the United States – and therefore the single greatest source of economic growth.
An estimated number of two to three million people are employed in more than 4,000 factories all over the country, not including the thousands of sub-suppliers. About 80% of the working force are women. Although violating national law sub-suppliers often still employ children under the age of 14.
Workers are reliant on the engagement to support their families. Jobs are highly underpaid – most factories pay the maximum of 1,500-2,000 Taka (about 15 – 20 Euros) per month. Labor time is up to 12 hours a day, 6 days a week.
Several clothing buyers asked the Bangladeshi government to raise the minimum wages but factory owners argue that they will not be competitive against Vietnam, China and other big producers if they raise wages and therefore would have to close their factories and discharge all their employees.
As people are reliant on their jobs they are still willing to work even if underpaid. Continuous riots by textile workers break out – leading to short-term shutdowns and often to injuries and fatalities among workers. It is unlikely that either the international clothing companies nor the local Bangladeshi factory owners will bear the costs of raised wages.
A change of the situation will only be achieved if consumers are aware of the social inequity and put pressure on the companies involved.
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