Bangladesh

The Ready-Made Garment (RMG) industry in Bangladesh has experienced rapid growth since the 1980s and is ranked as one of the top exporters in the world. The garment export industry is the biggest earner for Bangladesh, and accounts for 81% of total export earnings.  It is estimated that over 7 000 factories are linked to the export market. There is a concentration of activity in and around the capital city of Dhaka, Chittagong, Narayangong, Tongi, Shavar and Konabari districts, and a growing garment manufacturing presence in the country’s export processing zones (EPZs). Identifying exact production locations and the addresses of manufacturers of all products has been challenging for most brands doing business in Bangladesh. Due to unauthorised subcontracting, export production can be carried out in small workshops with limited labour production.

The RMG industry has made a substantial contribution to the economy and society by primarily providing a source of employment for up to four million workers. Over half of them are women. Labour conditions have been improved significantly after the Rana Plaza tragedy. The minimum wage increased by 79% in 2013. The age verification system has improved in most export oriented factories. Fewer cases of child labour are found in the export industry.  However, enforcement of labour law in RMG factories still needs to improve. FWF audits and stakeholder consultations in 2015 showed that the main challenges are related to freedom of association, payment of living wages, reducing excessive overtime and improving safety at work, especially women workers’ safety.

The government of Bangladesh has ratified the three main ILO conventions on Social Dialogue: Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise (No. 87), Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining (No. 98), and Tripartite Consultation (No. 144). Nevertheless the union landscape remains fragmented with over 7 000 registered trade unions in 2010, while union membership increased in absolute numbers to 2.3 million in 2010, but remains low in relative terms (7% in 2010) due to the rapidly increasing labour force. Union density even declined from 4.9% in 2001 to 4.1% in 2010. There are 36 national trade union confederations in Bangladesh. Only about seven or eight are referred to by experts as being functional. Adding to this fragmentation are the many unions / worker groups that exist without formal registration and recognition. Low membership, lack of recognition and fragmentation keeps the trade union movement relatively weak, especially after a period during which unionisation was prohibited.

The current minimum wage in the garment sector, at BDT 5 300 or EUR 60 per month, is one of the lowest minimum wages in the world. The 2013 minimum wage law is yet to be implemented fully. At some factories, workers’ pay grades are systematically changed so that they are paid less. For example, 38% of the audited factories in Bangladesh in 2015 have not paid minimum wages to workers according to their respective pay grades. Due to the low regular income, workers have to work significant amount of overtime to make some extra earnings. In many cases, the payment of overtime is lower than legal requirement. Many workers have worked over 12 hours per day, sometimes seven days a week, as regular practice. In the subcontracting factories, workers often do not receive minimum wages and have no access to social security.

About 66% of garment factory workers are young women.  While the garment factories provide employment and thus certain financial independence to young women, the working conditions are of low quality and characterised by low wages and unsafe environment. Workers’ rights, even human’s rights are not always respected. Women are also found in the lowest level of jobs in the industry. They work as sewing machine operators mainly and are not moved up in supervisory positions. There are very few women working as cutting masters, a job that does not necessarily involve physical strength, but where workers gain much more salary than the ones working with a sewing machine. In a survey conducted by FWF in 2013, over 60% women workers report that verbal abuse is common in their factories. Verbal abuse with sexually explicit profanity, bullying, pulling hair, pushing and hitting with fabrics are wide mentioned as common forms of violence against women in the workplace. Although it is reported that male production workers in the lowest grade experienced less verbal abuse and sexual harassment, they also face violence at work, e.g. bullying, hitting and forced resignation.
Fire and building safety of the factories has been a major concern for most stakeholders. Although there have been improvements in the recent years in terms of stricter regulations and enforcement of the law, continuous training is still needed to raise awareness on safety and increase knowledge of accident prevention.  FWF has strengthened the dialogue with its stakeholders on the specific risks and maintains close contact with the Accord for Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh.

Addition to the general requirements in the Code of Labour Practices, FWF members sourcing from Bangladesh are expected to follow the  Enhanced monitoring programme Bangladesh (2014) .
For more information about Bangladesh, please download the FWF’s Bangladesh Country Study.

Ensuring the building and fire safety of factories remains a major area requiring focus. Other important areas for improvement include prevention of child labour, protection of women workers’ safety, prevention of harassment at work, addressing unauthorised subcontracting, issuing of identity cards, providing job contracts to all workers, weekly holidays, regular payment of wages, limitation of night work by female workers and maternity leave.

FWF has been active in Bangladesh since 2006. Bangladesh is one of the major garment exporting countries. In light of the gravity of the problems concerning labour standards, FWF has marked Bangladesh as one of the priority countries for the years to come.

The country plan outlines areas of focus for each year’s work. FWF’s 2014 country plan for Bangladesh can be downloaded here.

 FWF’s Bangladesh Country Study is also available for download.

You can also email our verification coordinator responsible for Bangladesh, Koen Oosterom for futher questions.

Indicators

  1. FWF active since: 2006
  2. Complaints handler: yes
  3. Audit teams: 2
  4. FWF affiliates sourcing: 16
  5. Number of suppliers: 255
  6. Human development rank: 142
  7. Minimum wage: 5300 BDT = 66 US$
  8. GDP per capita per year (PPP$): 2,364
  9. Income equality value (Gini): 32,1
  10. Population below 1.25$/day: 43,3%
  11. Rule of law: 22,7%
  12. Global Gender Gap Index: 68
  13. Child labour (5-14 years): 13%
  14. Wage equality for similar work rank: 115
  15. Trade union situation

Resources

Resources related to Bangladesh

Bangladesh Country Study 2016

Bangladesh Country Study 2016 Read more about the current situation date: 21/12/2016Read more

Bangladesh Country Plan 2014

Bangladesh Country Plan 2014 Read more about the work of FWF in Ban date: 21/12/2011Read more

Bangladesh Enhanced Monitoring Programme 2014

Bangladesh Enhanced Monitoring Programme 2014 Read more about the B date: 05/07/2012Read more

FWF Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety 2013

Fair Wear Foundation's framework on Fire and Building Safety in Bang date: 21/12/2011Read more

Bangladesh Complaint Fristads Kansas Schijvens February 2016

Final report of complaint at a factory supplying Fristad Kansas & date: 11/05/2016Read more

Bangladesh Complaint Fristad Kansas Sols January 2016

Final report of complaint in Bangladesh at factory that supplies Fri date: 11/05/2016Read more

Bangladesh Complaint Stanley and Stella February 2015

Intermediate report of complaint in Bangladesh at a factory supplyin date: 15/02/2015Read more

Bangladesh Complaint Continental January 2015

Intermediate report of a complaint at a factory supplying Continenta date: 15/02/2015Read more

Bangladesh Complaint Takko August 2013

Final report of complaint in Bangladesh at factory that supplies Tak date: 26/02/2013Read more

Bangladesh Complaint Takko August 2014

Final report of complaint in Bangladesh at factory that supplies Tak date: 28/03/2014Read more

Bangladesh Complaint Takko August 2014 (2)

Final Report of Complaint in Bangladesh at factory that supplies Tak date: 28/03/2014Read more

Bangladesh Complaint Takko August 2014 (3)

Final report of complaint in Bangladesh at factory that supplies Tak date: 28/03/2014Read more

Bangladesh Complaint Kwintet October 2013

Final report of complaint in Bangladesh at factory that supplies Kwi date: 26/02/2013Read more

Projects

Projects in Bangladesh

Workplace Education Programme

FWF members aim for more than participating in auditing. FWF’s Workplace Education Programme (WEP) provides short, targeted onsite training for managers, supervisors and workers. The training aims to raise awareness about the various labour standards and effective methods for communicating about problems and resolving disputes. Managers, supervisors and workers also learn about FWF’s complaints mechanism.

Go to WEP

News

Here you can see the latest news from FWF’s work in Bangladesh

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