Population (2013): 156,6 million
Garment – export percentage (2014): around 80 %
Number of textile manufactures: around 5000
Employees in the garment industry (2013): 4-5 million, 80 % women
Wage Floor (2014): 5000 Taka (48 €)/month
Living wage estimated by
Asia Floor Wage (2013): 25,687 Taka (257,22 €)/month
Bangladesh is worldwide the second biggest exporter of garments and generates 80 per cent of the national export earning out of it. Around 4 million employees, 3,2 million women, earn their living in this sector. Bangladeshi workers are by far the cheapest around the world, which led to a massive economical growth and industrial diffusion in the past decades.
A great amount of women work in the garment industry in order to take care of themselves and their families. On the 1rst of January 2014 a wage floor of 5000 Taka (50 €) per month was determined by the government. Trade Unions in contrast demand 8000 Taka (80 €) per month while the Asian Floor Wage Alliance claims, that a family needs at least 257 € per month to live decently. Even though it exists a minimum floor wage, a lot of factory owners do not pay those 50 euros. Therefore most of the women work extra hours, up to 100 hours a month, to earn enough money to survive
The labour standards, laid down by the International Labour Organization (ILO), especially include the freedom of association and and the right of collective bargaining. However, the establishment and official recognition of unions turns out to be very difficult. There are only 142 out of 5000 factories, which allow unions. Most of them were founded just recently, after the tragedy of Tazreen, because the pressure on the government got too high. But women still had to face discrimination, intimidation, wrongful dismissals or even the threat to be beaten up to death.
On the 24th of November 2012, in the evening, a fire broke out in the Tazreen factory while 600 out of 1000 workers were still inside. There were no escape exits and only metal-grilled windows. Some of the women working there could get access to the outside, jumped down and fell very deep. 125 workers had died from their injuries in the aftermath of the fire, 150 got injured, partly severely. The Tazreen factory has had 9 levels, whereof three were put on top of the building illegally. Not even the lowest security standards were maintained: neither fire escape, nor emergency exits could be found. As the fire broke out at the entrance area and spread over to the stairways, there was no escape for the remaining workers. The factory belongs to the Tuba Group which also produces for German companies, like Lidl or Karl Rieker, as well as for other European and American customers. At least 14 international clients had recent or current orders at that time and a few of those clients had even discovered massive security lacks but continued to place orders.
In April 2013 the Rana Plaza building in Sabhar with 9 floors and five garment factories collapsed. 1138 people died and more than 1500 workers (mostly women) got injured. This accident is by far the most severe one in the history of the Bangladeshi garment industry. Therefore the International Labour Foundation (ILO) determined a compensation of 30 million US $ to pay into a special fund by all companies who are connected to Rana Plaza. Just recently the compensation was completely paid and the workers of Rana Plaza are going to get their full compensation.
Another positive development is to be observed: an Accord on Fire and Building Safety has been signed by 170 mostly European companies. This Accord is an comprehensive and independent agreement designed to make all garment factories in Bangladesh a safe workplace. Because of this Accord 2000 factories get checked on their safety standards and all results are uploaded to a website publicly accessible. This is the first time Unions and workers get to know the security situation of their factories.