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Bangladesh: Ready-made Garments
Country Study > Chapter 3 > The Economy > Industry > Ready-made Garments

READY-MADE GARMENTS


The ready-made garment industry in Bangladesh is not the outgrowth of traditional economic activities but emerged from economic opportunities perceived by the private sector in the late 1970s. Frustrated by quotas imposed by importing nations, such as the United States, entrepreneurs and managers from other Asian countries set up factories in Bangladesh, benefiting from even lower labor costs than in their home countries, which offset the additional costs of importing all materials to Bangladesh. Bangladesh-origin products met quality standards of customers in North America and Western Europe, and prices were satisfactory. Business flourished right from the start; many owners made back their entire capital investment within a year or two and thereafter continued to realize great profits. Some 85 percent of Bangladeshi production was sold to North American customers, and virtually overnight Bangladesh became become the sixth largest supplier to the North American market.

After foreign businesses began building a ready-made garment industry, Bangladeshi capitalists appeared, and a veritable rush of them began to organize companies in Dhaka, Chittagong, and smaller towns, where basic garments -- men's and boys' cotton shirts, women's and girls' blouses, shorts, and baby clothes -- were cut and assembled, packed, and shipped to customers overseas (mostly in the United States). With virtually no government regulation, the number of firms proliferated; no definitive count was available, but there were probably more than 400 firms by 1985, when the boom was peaking.

After just a few years, the ready-made garment industry employed more than 200,000 people. According to some estimates, about 80 percent were women, never previously in the industrial work force. Many of them were woefully underpaid and worked under harsh conditions. The net benefit to the Bangladeshi economy was only a fraction of export receipts, since virtually all materials used in garment manufacture were imported; practically all the value added in Bangladesh was from labor.

Data as of September 1988




Last Updated: September 1988


Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Bangladesh was first published in 1989. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on Factba.se.

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