If you venture into your closets and take a look at where your clothes were made, it is more than likely that you will find a large percentage of items were made in Bangladesh. This south Asian country is a giant in the manufacturing industry, and yet most of us couldn’t name many facts, statistics or trends about the Bangladesh textile industry.
While we may have heard headlines telling tales of tragedies or seen campaigns to end worker abuse, there is a lot more to the complex web that is the Bangladeshi textile sector than the headlines that occasionally appear on our newsfeeds.
The more we know, the more power we have to make a positive change. Understanding Bangladesh garment industry trends and statistics shines some light on just how, where and who made our clothes.
An Overview of Statistics on the Bangladesh Textile Industry
An Unfair Industry
The garment sector is famous for shadowy supply chains and shocking stories of abuse. When examining the conditions and unfair pay that workers face, Bangladesh’s textile industry statistics become a whole lot bleaker.
14. The fashion sector has a long way to go to become fair. On average it will take a top fashion brand’s CEO four days to make the same amount of money that the average Bangladesh garment worker will make in a lifetime.
22. The rock-bottom prices that have become common in the fashion industry drive unrealistic deadlines and low wages. The amount that western brands are willing to pay for men’s trousers has fallen by 13% since the Rana Plaza disaster.
24. 4.3% of children in Bangladesh between the ages of 5 and 14 work to help support their families. A large percentage of these children work in the garment industry. It was found that some children working 64 hours a week were paid less than $2 a day.
Tragedies in the Textile Sector
Unsafe conditions and lack of regulations has created the perfect storm, leading to heart-breaking accidents in the sector. The most famous was the Rana Plaza disaster.
Bangladesh Garment Industry Statistics on the Environment
Garment workers aren’t the only ones paying for a broken sector, the environment has also been left with a hefty price to pay for our love of cheap clothing. Bangladesh textile industry statistics involving environmental destruction are shocking.
The Impact of Covid-19
The Covid-19 pandemic was an unprecedented event in recent history. Every industry was hit hard in a world that seemed to transform overnight. The Bangladeshi garment industry was severely impacted by the pandemic and as a result, the livelihoods of millions hung in the balance.
36. Over just 3-4 months during the Covid-19 pandemic, Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association reported that 71,000 factory workers had been laid off. Many of these people were living on the breadline and faced extreme poverty with employment loss.
Accords and Agreements
Formed after the Rana Plaza collapse, the Bangladesh Safety Accord was a ground-breaking voluntary agreement between brands and trade unions to support the safety of garment workers. The Accord involved resolving complaints, monitoring remediation, providing training and undertaking factory inspections.
The Bangladesh Accord recently expired and as of 1 September 2021 was replaced with the International Accord for Health and Safety in the Textile and Garment Industry. Much like it’s predecessor, this accord works independently with unions, brands and factories to create safer and fairer factories. The accord once signed (voluntarily) is a legally binding agreement for a period of 26 months.
In the five years that it was active, the Bangladesh Accord achieved:
As of 3 March 2022, the new accord:
46. Is being tracked by The Clean Clothes Campaign Brand Tracker which tracks those brands that have signed and those that have failed to sign up. Top brands signed up include H&M, Marks & Spencer, Inditex, Fat Face, adidas, ASOS and John Lewis.
Trends Giving Hope for the Future
While statistics on the Bangladesh textile industry may seem dire, there is some hope for the future. Progress may be slow, but there is a changing attitude towards a fairer, safer and more environmentally friendly industry.
47. Safety conditions have been improving, albeit slowly, since the Rana Plaza disaster. While in the decade before the disaster an average of 71 people per year died across the garment industry from fire and building collapses, by 2018 this had dropped to 17 people per year. While 17 is still too many, each life saved is vital progress.
Knowing who Made our Clothes
To create a fairer fashion sector, it is vital that we understand who makes our clothes and the conditions they face.
Bangladesh is a giant of the international garment manufacturing sector and the more light we shine on the industry the harder it is for brands to hide behind shady supply chains and unethical practices. There is hope for the future of the Bangladesh garment manufacturing sector to become something incredibly positive.
By voting with our wallets and supporting brands that ensure safe supply chains we can create a future where everyone in the textile and fashion sector is protected. A sector where the environment is celebrated and we can all answer the question of who made our clothes.
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