INTRODUCTION Bangladesh has a population around 160 million (July 2008 est. ). About 45% of them are still living below the poverty line. Bangladesh’s Human development index (HDI) is 139 (out of 177), ranking as the lowest in the Asian country list. GDP per capita (PPP US$) is 1,770, which make the countries HDI rank almost the same as the GDP rank. In Bangladesh Garment exports began in the late 1970s. But the scale was for a number of years modest up until the government’s 1982 New Industrial Policy to liberalize manufacturing, promote private participation, foreign investment and exports.
During the last 10 years RMG has become one of the most important sectors of Bangladesh both from the domestic perspective and foreign earnings. Now RMG contributes about 76% of the foreign exports. Again it is also mentionable that about 80% of the workers in the RMG sector are female. Thus it is not contributing in earnings foreign currencies but also create employment opportunities for the women, which in turn contribute in the socio-economic development of Bangladesh.
So it is very much essential to assess the current status of the women workers in RMG sector to take appropriate strategy to facilitates them by ensuring their rights so that this sector become more convenient for them. This will encourage the women and provide them the opportunity to contribute in development of Bangladesh. OVERVIEW OF RMG SECTOR IN BANGLADESH Bangladesh had no sign of the ready-made garment industry until late 1970s to early 1980s when foreign investors started their businesses in Bangladesh.
The emergence of an export-oriented RMG industry in Bangladesh can be traced to a confluence of policy trends at global and national levels.
The opportunity came to us as a result of quota system imposed on some developed countries. The idea of readymade garments came to our country in 1978 from South Korean company Daewoo. Daewoo trained some 130 officials of Desh Garments and had a 5-year contract with the same. But within one year 115 officials left Dash Garments and established their own business in the name of Reaz Garments, Paris Garments, Jewel Garments and Baishakhi Garments.
In 1978 Reaz Garments 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. It was the first direct exporter of garments from Bangladesh. Thus the RMG (Ready Made Garments) was introduced in Bangladesh, which has now become the biggest industry of the nation. Because Bangladesh initially had no quotas assigned to it and the cost of labor was extremely low, the RMG industry grew at a very high speed and now it contributes approximately 76% of the GDP of Bangladesh.
The RMG sector of Bangladesh has helped the economic growth enormously. When the investors first came in, the government allowed 100% ownership for foreigners. The industry started with one factory in 1970; the number increased to eight factories in 1977. There were about 587 factories in 1984, 2650 in 1998 and 3300 in 2004. (Fritsch). After two decades of phenomenal growth the sector is destined to make a transition under phasing out of Multi Fiber Agreement (MFA) in 2005 through implementation of the Agreement on Textile & Clothing (ATC).
Only 30% of all the money that the country earns from garment factories stays in the country. The other 70% is used up in buying fabric and other raw materials that are not available in Bangladesh. Most garment factories are situated in Dhaka, Chittagong, Savar, Narayangong and Tongi. The major markets for Bangladesh have always been the United States, Canada and Europe and a few Caribbean countries, but recently Bangladesh has start exporting to other countries such as Australia and Japan on a smaller scale. Bangladesh exports 63 items (for example shirts, pants, etc. to other. Relatively strong GDP growth was almost doubled in value from 5. 6 per cent of GDP in the late 1980s to 12 percent in 2000. Here the RMG sector has played a leading role. Its share of the country’s foreign exchange earnings has grown steadily from 4 per cent in the early 1980s to 41 percent at the beginning of the 1990s to 77 percent in 2001–2002. Within RMG the share of knitwear increased even more dramatically from a negligible proportion in 1989–90 to 25 percent of total exports in 2002–2003, accounting for one-third of total RMG exports.
Between 1978 and 1999 the RMG sector earned US$26 billion for the country, of which the value-added component was US$7. 6 billion or 29 per cent. In addition, a host of ancillary industries producing accessories have also emerged and grown alongside the garment industry. One estimate suggests that 80 per cent of garment accessories were locally produced, valued at $0. 5 billion a year (Bhattacharya and Rahman, 2000). Despite this spectacular performance, however, there is considerable pessimism about the future of the industry, particularly given plans to phase.