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Bangladesh-Ready-made Garments

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Bangladesh Index


Employees of Chittagong garment factory returning from lunch
Courtesy Siria Lopez

The ready-made garment industry in Bangladesh is not the outgrowth of traditional economic activities but emerged from economic opportunities perceived by the private sector in the late 1970s. Frustrated by quotas imposed by importing nations, such as the United States, entrepreneurs and managers from other Asian countries set up factories in Bangladesh, benefiting from even lower labor costs than in their home countries, which offset the additional costs of importing all materials to Bangladesh. Bangladesh-origin products met quality standards of customers in North America and Western Europe, and prices were satisfactory. Business flourished right from the start; many owners made back their entire capital investment within a year or two and thereafter continued to realize great profits. Some 85 percent of Bangladeshi production was sold to North American customers, and virtually overnight Bangladesh became become the sixth largest supplier to the North American market (see Foreign Trade , this ch.).

After foreign businesses began building a ready-made garment industry, Bangladeshi capitalists appeared, and a veritable rush of them began to organize companies in Dhaka, Chittagong, and smaller towns, where basic garments--men's and boys' cotton shirts, women's and girls' blouses, shorts, and baby clothes--were cut and assembled, packed, and shipped to customers overseas (mostly in the United States). With virtually no government regulation, the number of firms proliferated; no definitive count was available, but there were probably more than 400 firms by 1985, when the boom was peaking.

After just a few years, the ready-made garment industry employed more than 200,000 people. According to some estimates, about 80 percent were women, never previously in the industrial work force. Many of them were woefully underpaid and worked under harsh conditions. The net benefit to the Bangladeshi economy was only a fraction of export receipts, since virtually all materials used in garment manufacture were imported; practically all the value added in Bangladesh was from labor.

Data as of September 1988

BackgroundEuropeans began to set up trading posts in the area of Bangladesh in the 16th century; eventually the British came to dominate the region and it became part of British India. In 1947, West Pakistan and East Bengal (both primarily Muslim) separated from India (largely Hindu) and jointly became the new country of Pakistan. East Bengal became East Pakistan in 1955, but the awkward arrangement of a two-part country with its territorial units separated by 1,600 km left the Bengalis marginalized and dissatisfied. East Pakistan seceded from its union with West Pakistan in 1971 and was renamed Bangladesh. A military-backed, emergency caretaker regime suspended parliamentary elections planned for January 2007 in an effort to reform the political system and root out corruption. In contrast to the strikes and violent street rallies that had marked Bangladeshi politics in previous years, the parliamentary elections finally held in late December 2008 were mostly peaceful and Sheikh HASINA Wajed was reelected prime minister. About a third of this extremely poor country floods annually during the monsoon rainy season, hampering economic development.
LocationSouthern Asia, bordering the Bay of Bengal, between Burma and India
Area(sq km)total: 143,998 sq km
land: 130,168 sq km
water: 13,830 sq km
Geographic coordinates24 00 N, 90 00 E
Land boundaries(km)total: 4,246 km
border countries: Burma 193 km, India 4,053 km

Coastline(km)580 km

Climatetropical; mild winter (October to March); hot, humid summer (March to June); humid, warm rainy monsoon (June to October)

Elevation extremes(m)lowest point: Indian Ocean 0 m
highest point: Keokradong 1,230 m
Natural resourcesnatural gas, arable land, timber, coal
Land use(%)arable land: 55.39%
permanent crops: 3.08%
other: 41.53% (2005)

Irrigated land(sq km)47,250 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources(cu km)1,210.6 cu km (1999)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural)total: 79.4 cu km/yr (3%/1%/96%)
per capita: 560 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazardsdroughts; cyclones; much of the country routinely inundated during the summer monsoon season
Environment - current issuesmany people are landless and forced to live on and cultivate flood-prone land; waterborne diseases prevalent in surface water; water pollution, especially of fishing areas, results from the use of commercial pesticides; ground water contaminated by naturally occurring arsenic; intermittent water shortages because of falling water tables in the northern and central parts of the country; soil degradation and erosion; deforestation; severe overpopulation
Environment - international agreementsparty to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography - notemost of the country is situated on deltas of large rivers flowing from the Himalayas: the Ganges unites with the Jamuna (main channel of the Brahmaputra) and later joins the Meghna to eventually empty into the Bay of Bengal
Population156,050,883 (July 2009 est.)
Age structure(%)0-14 years: 34.6% (male 27,065,625/female 26,913,961)
15-64 years: 61.4% (male 45,222,182/female 50,537,052)
65 years and over: 4% (male 3,057,255/female 3,254,808) (2009 est.)
Median age(years)total: 23.3 years
male: 22.9 years
female: 23.5 years (2009 est.)
Population growth rate(%)1.292% (2009 est.)
Birth rate(births/1,000 population)24.68 births/1,000 population (2009 est.)
Death rate(deaths/1,000 population)9.23 deaths/1,000 population (July 2009 est.)

Net migration rate(migrant(s)/1,000 population)-2.53 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2009 est.)
Urbanization(%)urban population: 27% of total population (2008)
rate of urbanization: 3.5% annual rate of change (2005-10 est.)
Sex ratio(male(s)/female)at birth: 1.04 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.01 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.9 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.94 male(s)/female
total population: 0.93 male(s)/female (2009 est.)
Infant mortality rate(deaths/1,000 live births)total: 59.02 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 66.12 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 51.64 deaths/1,000 live births (2009 est.)

Life expectancy at birth(years)total population: 60.25 years
male: 57.57 years
female: 63.03 years (2009 est.)

Total fertility rate(children born/woman)2.74 children born/woman (2009 est.)
Nationalitynoun: Bangladeshi(s)
adjective: Bangladeshi
Ethnic groups(%)Bengali 98%, other 2% (includes tribal groups, non-Bengali Muslims) (1998)

Religions(%)Muslim 83%, Hindu 16%, other 1% (1998)
Languages(%)Bangla (official, also known as Bengali), English

Country nameconventional long form: People's Republic of Bangladesh
conventional short form: Bangladesh
local long form: Gana Prajatantri Banladesh
local short form: Banladesh
former: East Bengal, East Pakistan
Government typeparliamentary democracy
Capitalname: Dhaka
geographic coordinates: 23 43 N, 90 24 E
time difference: UTC+6 (11 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
Administrative divisions6 divisions; Barisal, Chittagong, Dhaka, Khulna, Rajshahi, Sylhet
Constitution4 November 1972; effective 16 December 1972; suspended following coup of 24 March 1982; restored 10 November 1986; amended many times

Legal systembased on English common law; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Suffrage18 years of age; universal
Executive branchchief of state: President Zillur RAHMAN (since 12 February 2009)
head of government: Prime Minister Sheikh HASINA Wajed (since 6 January 2009)
cabinet: Cabinet selected by the prime minister and appointed by the president
elections: president elected by National Parliament for a five-year term (eligible for a second term); last election held on 11 February 2009 (next scheduled election to be held in 2014)
election results: Zillur RAHMAN declared president-elect by the Election Commission on 11 February 2009 (sworn in on 12 February); he ran unopposed as president; percent of National Parliament vote - NA

Legislative branchunicameral National Parliament or Jatiya Sangsad; 300 seats elected by popular vote from single territorial constituencies; members serve five-year terms
elections: last held 29 December 2008 (next to be held in 2013)
election results: percent of vote by party - AL 49%, BNP 33.2%, JP 7%, JIB 4.6%, other 6.2%; seats by party - AL 230, BNP 30, JP 27, JIB 2, other 11

Judicial branchSupreme Court (the chief justices and other judges are appointed by the president)

Political pressure groups and leadersAdvocacy to End Gender-based Violence through the MoWCA (Ministry of Women's and Children's Affairs)
other: environmentalists; Islamist groups; religious leaders; teachers; union leaders
Flag descriptiongreen field with a large red disk shifted slightly to the hoist side of center; the red disk represents the rising sun and the sacrifice to achieve independence; the green field symbolizes the lush vegetation of Bangladesh

Economy - overviewThe economy has grown 5-6% per year since 1996 despite inefficient state-owned enterprises, delays in exploiting natural gas resources, insufficient power supplies, and slow implementation of economic reforms. Bangladesh remains a poor, overpopulated, and inefficiently-governed nation. Although more than half of GDP is generated through the service sector, nearly two-thirds of Bangladeshis are employed in the agriculture sector, with rice as the single-most-important product. Garment exports and remittances from Bangladeshis working overseas, mainly in the Middle East and East Asia, fuel economic growth. In 2008 Bangladesh pursued a monetary policy aimed at maintaining high employment, but created higher inflation in the process.
GDP (purchasing power parity)$226.4 billion (2008 est.)
$214 billion (2007 est.)
$201.5 billion (2006 est.)
note: data are in 2008 US dollars
GDP (official exchange rate)$84.2 billion (2008 est.)
GDP - real growth rate(%)5.8% (2008 est.)
6.2% (2007 est.)
6.4% (2006 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP)$1,500 (2008 est.)
$1,400 (2007 est.)
$1,300 (2006 est.)
note: data are in 2008 US dollars
GDP - composition by sector(%)agriculture: 19.1%
industry: 28.6%
services: 52.3% (2008 est.)
Labor force70.86 million
note: extensive export of labor to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE, Oman, Qatar, and Malaysia; workers' remittances estimated at $4.8 billion in 2005-06. (2008 est.)

Labor force - by occupation(%)agriculture: 63%
industry: 11%
services: 26% (FY95/96)
Unemployment rate(%)2.5% (2008 est.)
2.5% (2007 est.)
Population below poverty line(%)45% (2004 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share(%)lowest 10%: 4.3%
highest 10%: 26.6% (2005)
Distribution of family income - Gini index33.2 (2005)
33.6 (1996)
Investment (gross fixed)(% of GDP)24.3% of GDP (2008 est.)
Budgetrevenues: $8.825 billion
expenditures: $12.54 billion (2008 est.)
Inflation rate (consumer prices)(%)8.9% (2008 est.)
9.1% (2007 est.)

Stock of money$9.294 billion (31 December 2008)
$8.444 billion (31 December 2007)
Stock of quasi money$37.98 billion (31 December 2008)
$32.35 billion (31 December 2007)
Stock of domestic credit$47.03 billion (31 December 2008)
$40.1 billion (31 December 2007)
Market value of publicly traded shares$6.671 billion (31 December 2008)
$6.793 billion (31 December 2007)
$3.61 billion (31 December 2006)
Economic aid - recipient$1.321 billion (2005)

Public debt(% of GDP)39.4% of GDP (2008 est.)
43% of GDP (2004 est.)
Agriculture - productsrice, jute, tea, wheat, sugarcane, potatoes, tobacco, pulses, oilseeds, spices, fruit; beef, milk, poultry
Industriescotton textiles, jute, garments, tea processing, paper newsprint, cement, chemical fertilizer, light engineering, sugar

Industrial production growth rate(%)6.9% (2008 est.)

Current account balance$1.032 billion (2008 est.)
$856.8 million (2007 est.)
Exports$15.44 billion (2008 est.)
$12.47 billion (2007 est.)

Exports - commodities(%)garments, jute and jute goods, leather, frozen fish and seafood
Exports - partners(%)US 21%, Germany 13.2%, UK 8.6%, France 6.3%, Netherlands 4.7% (2008)
Imports$21.51 billion (2008 est.)
$16.67 billion (2007 est.)

Imports - commodities(%)machinery and equipment, chemicals, iron and steel, textiles, foodstuffs, petroleum products, cement
Imports - partners(%)China 14.7%, India 14.7%, Kuwait 7.5%, Singapore 7.1%, Japan 4.1% (2008)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold$5.789 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
$5.278 billion (31 December 2007 est.)
Debt - external$22.83 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
$21.23 billion (31 December 2007 est.)

Stock of direct foreign investment - at home$5.971 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
$5.261 billion (31 December 2007 est.)
Stock of direct foreign investment - abroad$97 million (31 December 2008 est.)
Exchange ratestaka (BDT) per US dollar - 68.554 (2008 est.), 69.893 (2007), 69.031 (2006), 64.328 (2005), 59.513 (2004)

Currency (code)taka (BDT)

Telephones - main lines in use1.39 million (2009)
Telephones - mobile cellular45.75 million (2009)
Telephone systemgeneral assessment: inadequate for a modern country; fixed-line telephone density remains less than 1 per 100 persons; mobile-cellular telephone subscribership has been increasing rapidly and has reached 30 per 100 persons
domestic: modernizing; introducing digital systems; trunk systems include VHF and UHF microwave radio relay links, and some fiber-optic cable in cities
international: country code - 880; landing point for the SEA-ME-WE-4 fiber-optic submarine cable system that provides links to Europe, the Middle East, and Asia; satellite earth stations - 6; international radiotelephone communications and landline service to neighboring countries (2008)
Internet country code.bd
Internet users556,000 (2008)
Airports17 (2009)
Pipelines(km)gas 2,597 km (2008)
Roadways(km)total: 239,226 km
paved: 22,726 km
unpaved: 216,500 km (2003)

Ports and terminalsChittagong, Mongla Port
Military branchesBangladesh Defense Force: Bangladesh Army (Sena Bahini), Bangladesh Navy (Noh Bahini, BN), Bangladesh Air Force (Biman Bahini, BAF) (2009)
Military service age and obligation(years of age)16 years of age for voluntary military service; 17 years of age for officers (both with parental consent); conscription legally possible in emergency, but has never been implemented (2008)
Manpower available for military servicemales age 16-49: 41,199,340 (2008 est.)
Manpower fit for military servicemales age 16-49: 24,946,041
females age 16-49: 31,409,069 (2009 est.)
Manpower reaching militarily significant age annuallymale: 1,538,865
female: 1,666,670 (2009 est.)
Military expenditures(% of GDP)1.5% of GDP (2006)
Disputes - internationaldiscussions with India remain stalled to delimit a small section of river boundary, exchange territory for 51 small Bangladeshi exclaves in India and 111 small Indian exclaves in Bangladesh, allocate divided villages, and stop illegal cross-border trade, migration, violence, and transit of terrorists through the porous border; Bangladesh protests India's fencing and walling off high-traffic sections of the porous boundary; a joint Bangladesh-India boundary commission resurveyed and reconstructed 92 missing pillars in 2007; dispute with India over New Moore/South Talpatty/Purbasha Island in the Bay of Bengal deters maritime boundary delimitation; after 21 years, Bangladesh resumes talks with Burma on delimiting a maritime boundary

Refugees and internally displaced personsrefugees (country of origin): 26,268 (Burma)
IDPs: 65,000 (land conflicts, religious persecution) (2007)
Electricity - production(kWh)22.99 billion kWh (2007 est.)
Electricity - production by source(%)fossil fuel: 93.7%
hydro: 6.3%
nuclear: 0%
other: 0% (2001)
Electricity - consumption(kWh)21.38 billion kWh (2007 est.)
Electricity - exports(kWh)0 kWh (2008 est.)
Electricity - imports(kWh)0 kWh (2008 est.)
Oil - production(bbl/day)6,426 bbl/day (2008 est.)
Oil - consumption(bbl/day)95,000 bbl/day (2008 est.)
Oil - exports(bbl/day)2,612 bbl/day (2007 est.)
Oil - imports(bbl/day)87,660 bbl/day (2007 est.)
Oil - proved reserves(bbl)28 million bbl (1 January 2009 est.)
Natural gas - production(cu m)17.9 billion cu m (2008 est.)
Natural gas - consumption(cu m)17.9 billion cu m (2008 est.)
Natural gas - exports(cu m)0 cu m (2008)
Natural gas - proved reserves(cu m)141.6 billion cu m (1 January 2009 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate(%)less than 0.1% (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS12,000 (2007 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deathsfewer than 500 (2007 est.)
Major infectious diseasesdegree of risk: high
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial and protozoal diarrhea, hepatitis A and E, and typhoid fever
vectorborne diseases: dengue fever and malaria are high risks in some locations
water contact disease: leptospirosis
animal contact disease: rabies
note: highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza has been identified in this country; it poses a negligible risk with extremely rare cases possible among US citizens who have close contact with birds (2009)
Literacy(%)definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 47.9%
male: 54%
female: 41.4% (2001 Census)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education)(years)total: 8 years
male: 8 years
female: 8 years (2004)
Education expenditures(% of GDP)2.7% of GDP (2005)

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