GARMENT EXPORTS FROM BANGLADESH: AN UPDATE AND EVALUATION
Professor of Economics and Chair
University of Southern Indiana, USA
Professor of Economics
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, USA
Journal of Bangladesh Studies: on-line
Articles published in the Journal of Bangladesh Studies will be available on-line a year after publication. Current issues are available only in paper form to subscribers. Here are the articles contained in the first issue of the JBS which was published in December 1999. Journal of Bangladesh Studies
Vol. 1 No. 1
The success of readymade garment exports from Bangladesh over the past two decades has surpassed the most optimistic expectations. The paper reviews the literature on this industry, presents recent data on the sector's performance, and evaluates future trends in the international and domestic clothing industry. More specifically, the paper evaluates the negative impact of the 1998 floods on the industry. It concludes that although the impact of the flood was unexpectedly benign, the entrepreneurs face important challenges from the health of the domestic banking sector, the East Asian economic crisis, and the deregulation of the global clothing business as a result of the phasing out of the Multi-fibre agreement in the year 2005.
The tremendous success of readymade garment exports from Bangladesh over the last two decades has surpassed the most optimistic expectations. Today the apparel export sector is a multi-billion-dollar manufacturing and export industry in the country. The overall impact of the readymade garment exports is certainly one of the most significant social and economic developments in contemporary Bangladesh. With over one and a half million women workers employed in semi-skilled and skilled jobs producing clothing for exports, the development of the apparel export industry has had far-reaching implications for the society and economy of Bangladesh.
Several authors have analyzed aspects of the garment industry in Bangladesh. Of the various aspects of the industry, the problems and the working conditions of female workers have received the greatest attention. There are several studies including the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS) study by Salma
Chowdhury and Protima Mazumdar[i] (1991) and the Bangladesh Unnayan Parisad [ii](1990) study
on this topic. Both of these studies use accepted survey and research methodology to analyze a wealth of data on the social and economic background, problems and prospects of female workers in the RMG sector. Professor Muzaffar Ahmad looks at the industrial organization of the sector and discusses robustness and long-term viability of apparel manufacturing in Bangladesh.[iii] Wiig (1990) provides a good overview of this industry, especially the developments in the early years.[iv] One of the few studies on the Bangladesh apparel industry to be published in a reputed journal in the U.S. is that of Yung Whee Rhee (1990) who presents what he calls a “catalyst model” of development. The Bangladesh Planning Commission under the Trade and Industrial Policy (TIP) project also commissioned several studies on the industry. [v] Hossain and Brar (1992) consider some labor-related issues in the garment industry.[vi] Quddus (1993) presents a profile of the apparel sector in Bangladesh and discusses some other aspects of the industry.[vii] Quddus (1996) presents results from a survey of apparel entrepreneurs and evaluates the performance of entrepreneurs and their contribution to the success of this industry.[viii] Islam and Quddus (1996) present an overall analysis of the industry to evaluate its potential as a catalyst for the development of the rest of the Bangladesh economy.[ix]
The 1998 Floods
The floods that affected Bangladesh between July and September 1998 were among the worst natural disasters...
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