Bangladesh factories still suffering after Covid
The Covid-19 pandemic hit every country in the world, but some felt its effect more than others.
Bangladesh was one of those countries; unfortunately, even after things have settled down again, not much has improved for the workers there.
The Bangladesh apparel industry before the pandemic
We’ve talked before about Bangladesh, its history with the apparel industry and our role there.
As the second largest manufacturer of garments in the world (China being the first), there are many, many brands and companies around the world who look to the Bangladesh apparel industry for their business.
The ready-made garment (RMG) industry accounts for 84% of Bangladesh’s exports, exporting to 167 countries around the world. The reason the country is in such high demand when it comes to apparel is because of a giant overhaul in the industry over the past decade, resulting in greater transparency and responsibility.
Unfortunately, just as the country was becoming a lodestar for similar nations, the pandemic hit, closing factories and leaving millions out of work.
One of the biggest effects of the pandemic was the decline in demand for clothes.
As people around the world faced economic uncertainty, many have cut back on spending on non-essential items such as clothing. On top of global lockdowns, order reductions, cancellations, payment delays, and renegotiation of terms meant that Bangladesh was hit hard.
Thousands of apparel factories closed, resulting in the value of Bangladesh’s RMG exports falling by 17% in the first year alone.
The Bangladeshi government took some steps to support the industry, including financial assistance to SMEs and the relaxation of some of the labour laws we saw over the previous decade to allow for more flexible working hours; however, the damage from Covid was too great to have much of an effect.
The industry today
The world is starting to return to normal, but the effects of Covid still linger.
The situation is particularly dire for workers in the Bangladesh garment industry, who were already among the lowest-paid in the world.
A recent survey of 1,000 factories found that many were paid less than the cost of making a garment, resulting in workers getting paid even less.
The report, carried out by Aberdeen University’s Business School and justice charity Transform Trade, found that 90% of larger high street brands were reported as engaging in unfair purchasing practices, including cancellations, failure to pay, delays in payment and discount demands.
The report also found that one in five manufacturers in Bangladesh is struggling to pay minimum wage, while many fashion brands which use Bangladeshi labour have increased their profits.
The study also found that after the pandemic, factories only employed 75% of the workers they had before, suggesting that up to 900,000 could have lost their jobs.
immago in Bangladesh
We opened our office in Bangladesh in 2015, northwest of Dhaka, the capital, and have been working with local manufacturers ever since.
We wanted to be a part of the new wave of initiatives sweeping the apparel industry in Bangladesh, focusing on workers’ rights, health and safety issues, and minimum wage requirements.
We are proud to say we have been part of supporting these changes, but there is still a lot of work to do, especially after Covid.
There are many brands around the world that look towards Bangladesh as a base for their manufacturing operations. We carry out regular factory inspections to ensure the ethical treatment of all workers, so working through us means you don’t have to worry about human rights abuses.
Our Country Manager, Ismail Hasan, knows and works with all the local connections, is familiar with local customs, and can help find the best possible solution for your business.
If you would like to know more about how we can help you set up in the Bangladesh apparel industry, please don’t hesitate to contact us today, and one of our friendly team members will be happy to have a chat.