Development of Apparel Industry in Bangladesh
Garment Industry Large-scale production of readymade garments (RMG) in organised factories is a relatively new phenomenon in Bangladesh. Until early sixties, individual tailors made garments as per specifications provided by individual customers who supplied the fabrics. The domestic market for readymade garment, excepting children wears and men's knit underwear (genji) was virtually non-existent in Bangladesh until the sixties. Since the late 1970s, the RMG industry started developing in Bangladesh primarily as an export-oriented industry although, the domestic market for RMG has been increasing fast due to increase in personal disposable income and change in life style. The sector rapidly attained high importance in terms of employment, foreign exchange earnings and its contribution to GDP. In 1999, the industry employed directly more than 1.4 million workers, about 80% of whom were female. With the growth of RMG industry, linkage industries supplying fabrics, yarns, accessories, packaging materials, etc. have also expanded. In addition, demand for services like transportation, banking, shipping and insurance has increased. All these have created additional employment. The total indirect employment created by the RMG industry in Bangladesh is estimated to be some 200,000 workers. In addition to its economic contribution, the expansion of the RMG industry has caused noticeable social changes by bringing more than 1.12 million women into labour force. The economic empowerment of these working girls/women has changed their status in the family. The attractive opportunity of employment has changed the traditional patriarchal hegemony of the fathers, brothers and husbands. Most working women/girls can now chose when to get married or become mothers. The number of early marriages is decreasing; so is the birth rate; and the working girls tend to send their little bothers and sisters to school, as a result, the literacy rate is increasing. They can participate in family decision-making. Most importantly, the growth of RMG sector produced a group of entrepreneurs who have created a strong private sector. Of these entrepreneurs, a sizeable number is female. A woman entrepreneur established one of the oldest export-oriented garment factories, the Baishakhi Garment in 1977. Many women hold top executive positions in RMG industry. The RMG industry is highly dependent on imported raw materials and accessories because Bangladesh does not have enough capacity to produce export quality fabrics and accessories. About 90% of woven fabrics and 60% of knit fabrics are imported to make garments for export. The industry is based primarily on sub-contracting, under which Bangladeshi entrepreneurs work as sub-contractors of foreign buyers. It has grown by responding to orders placed by foreign buyers on C-M (Cut and Make) basis. During its early years, the buyers supplied all the fabrics and accessories or recommended the sources of supply from which Bangladeshi sub-contractors were required to import the fabrics. However, situation has improved. At present, there are many large firms, which do their own sourcing. The hundred percent export-oriented RMG industry experienced phenomenal growth during the last 15 or so years. In 1978, there were only 9 export-oriented garment manufacturing units, which generated export earnings of hardly one million dollar. Some of these units were very small and produced garments for both domestic and export markets. Four such small and old units were Reaz Garments, Paris Garments, Jewel Garments and Baishakhi Garments. Reaz Garments, the pioneer, was established in 1960 as a small tailoring outfit, named Reaz Store in dhaka. It served only domestic markets for about 15 years. In 1973 it changed its name to M/s Reaz Garments Ltd. and expanded its operations into export market by selling 10,000 pieces of men's shirts worth French Franc 13 million to a Paris-based firm...
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