More reasons to streamline apparel sector
THE primary report of a survey conducted by the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies, which found that owners of 2,376 out of 4,400 factories under the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters’ Association and 1,124 out of 1,904 factories under the Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters’ Association run their business as sub-contractors putting the factory compliance issues ‘at significant risk’, should be a wake-up call for the associations’ leaders as well as the government. As New Age reported on Monday, the report, which has been shared with the labour ministry and the BGMEA and BKMEA leaders on Sunday, also found that the rate of non-compliance is higher in small sub-contracting factories employing less than 500 people which account for 59.1 per cent of the factories registered with the BKMEA and 28 per cent of the factories enlisted with the BGMEA. Pertinently, such small factories usually remain outside the purview of international buyers as the latter do not directly buy products from them. On the other hand, the relevant government authorities have appeared largely indifferent to taking care of small industrial units thus far.
The findings come at a time when the apparel sector as a whole is going through a critical period, especially since the Tazreen fire that claimed at least 112 lives in November 2012 and the Rana Plaza collapse that left more than 1,100 workers dead and many more disabled for life in April 2013. The two incidents exposed the vulnerability of most apparel workers to different sorts of accidents largely attributable to their employers’ apathy to workplace safety and also caused serious damage to the sector’s image internationally. Not only that, the incidents have even put the country’s apparel products at risk of losing their market, particularly in the US and European Union countries with the former having already postponed its GSP facilities for some Bangladeshi products. It is now known to all that the US and EU have recently laid out some guidelines apparently to ensure safe factory environment in the garment sector, non-compliance with which may end up jeopardising the sector that, apart from contributing to over 76 per cent of the country’s annual export earnings, provides jobs directly to more than four million people and indirectly to millions more. Overall, the government must not ignore the findings in question and immediately take effective steps to streamline the apparel sector.
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