The garment industry is one of the biggest industries in the world. The revenue generated from global sales of apparel amounted to $1.5 trillion in 2021 and is likely to increase by 33.3% in 2026 reaching a figure of $2 trillion or more . Most developing countries are a big part of garment production and export.
The primary reason for this is the low cost of manufacturing and high volume of export orders from developed countries which can pay a significantly higher amount for them. Among these countries, Bangladesh is emerging as one of the leading garment manufacturers and exporters in the world. The local markets as well as export orders are booming at a high rate.
Overview of the Garment Industry of Bangladesh
The garment industry of Bangladesh generated revenue of $9.34 billion in 2022 and is forecasted to grow annually at a CAGR of 4.8% between 2022 and 2026 . The garment industry of Bangladesh is highly dependent on the sales of women’s apparel which accounts for about 48% of the total sales. Per person revenues generated in Bangladesh from the sales of apparel are $55.65 . One reason for this figure being so low is that the cost of production in Bangladesh is quite low and there is no trend for buying luxury clothing.
Statista reports that 100% of the sales are directed towards non-luxury products which indicate that there is no trend for buying upper-end brands for clothing . The average volume per person in the garment market is forecasted at 6.9 pieces in 2022 . This is neither too high nor too low for the case of a developing country like Bangladesh. However, the limited demand and presence of branded clothing pose a threat to prosperity as well as an improved standard of living for the citizens of Bangladesh.
Garment Industry of Bangladesh | Detailed Analysis
The foremost aspect of the garment industry of Bangladesh is the aspect of manufacturing which is essential for the successful retail of clothing as well. The competitive landscape in the garment industry is also quite high which keeps the prices stable for both, domestic as well as international customers.
Some of the top garment manufacturing firms in Bangladesh include Ha-meem Group, Noman Group, Beximco Textile Division Limited, Square Textile, and DBL Group as well . The most recent developments by these textile mills as well as others include an investment of $194 million for setting up processing plants in order to make flakes from plastic bottles which would help in the production of recycled yarn and fabrics, as reported by the Bangladesh Textile Mills Association .
In addition to that, Bangladesh is also focusing on natural fibers for the production of garments. This is because there is an increased demand by global sellers for sustainable clothing. It is cheaper, stronger, and also helps in creating a better value for the company towards the customers. The natural fibers used by Bangladesh’s Textile Industry include cotton, silk, linen, wool, hemp, jute, and cashmere . The four most used natural fibers in the garments manufactured in Bangladesh include cotton, silk, wool, and jute .
One of the most significant developments in the garment industry of Bangladesh is that it has a special contract with the European Union which allows quota-free and duty-free access to Bangladesh toward the European Union markets . As a result of this, Bangladesh’s garment industry is able to compete in a better manner with reduced prices and no limits on the volume of products being sent. This special agreement gives a better edge to Bangladesh over other South Asian countries .
However, there are strict regulations that Bangladesh has to follow for keeping this contract. In 2022, a delegation provided a nine-point action plan to be followed by Bangladesh so that the country’s European Union Trade Agreement stays in place . Most importantly, workers’ rights are supported in this nine-point action plan such as access to trade unions, and not having forced labor in any way . In addition to that, child labor needs to be eliminated from the garment industry which is one of the biggest problems in Bangladesh.
Women’s Garment Market in Bangladesh
The women’s garment market is the most important part of the garment industry of Bangladesh which accounted for $4.2 billion in 2022 and is forecasted to grow at a rate of 5.03% per annum between 2022 and 2026 . Per person revenues are also low as compared to many other countries. Only $25.02 are spent per person in the women’s garment market on average which indicates the low buying power of women in Bangladesh . In addition to that, the average volume per person in the case of the women’s apparel market is 3.1 pieces in 2022 .
Most women in Bangladesh are not that educated and are still following a cultural approach to life. For this reason, they still have a strong value for their culture and wear the dresses accordingly. Reports highlight that the sale of women’s garments increases during the season when marriages are high .
Men’s Garment Market in Bangladesh
The men’s garment market is the second most important subsector of the garment industry in Bangladesh, making up revenue of $3.075 billion in 2022 . This amount is 3% of the revenue generated in the USA . Between 2022 and 2026, this sector is forecasted to grow at a CAGR of 5.11% . The per-person revenues for this sector are quite low at about $18.31 per person . One of the most shocking figures about the men’s apparel market is that the average volume per person is just 1.1 pieces per person in 2022 .
This indicates that a large majority of people have 1 or not even 1 piece of clothing with them. It also indicates that the men’s garment market is not close to any sort of luxury product. Reports by the Asian Development Bank suggest that the main reason why garments as well as other industries are not booming locally is that 20.5% of the population is living below the line of poverty, as of 2019 . By 2022, this rate has fallen to 18.4% but is still too high . This means that almost 1 in 5 people in Bangladesh are living below the line of poverty which has led to slow growth in numerous industries. Citizens don’t even have access to basic facilities and live on the outskirts of urban areas.
Additionally, 5.3% of the employed population is also earning less than $1.9 a day which is why there is reduced purchasing power to spend on clothes .
Children’s Garment Market in Bangladesh
The children’s garment market accounts for $2.06 billion as of 2022 with a forecasted growth rate of 3.91% . The per person revenue in this market amounts to $12.31 which is fine considering the other sub-sectors such as men’s and women’s garment markets . In addition to that, the per person volume has been 2.7 pieces in 2022 . This again shows that a large majority of children in Bangladesh might be having just 1 or 2 clothes or not even those . Poverty is an important reason why children aren’t having suitable clothing with them.
In terms of clothing, children mainly wear t-shirts and shirts. There isn’t much spending in Bangladesh on baby clothes. Apart from that, school uniforms are one of the biggest segments of the children’s garment market in Bangladesh.
Exports of Garment Industry of Bangladesh
The garment industry of Bangladesh is the most important export industry of the country as it accounted for 81.16% of the total exports of the country . Earlier statistics by the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association show that garments worth $34 billion were exported in 2019 . In the next year, this amount fell down to $27.9 billion but a speedy recovery was seen in 2021 when the figure reached a high revenue of $31.45 billion .
If the exports continue to rise at this rate, they can easily cross the $40 billion benchmark by 2026 . However, certain factors such as increasing competition from China are important areas of concern. The country has gained several positions among the leading garment manufacturing countries of the world over the last 7 years. It comes after China which is the largest exporter of garment products. There are several reports which highlight the increased garment exports of Bangladesh to other countries including the EU and the USA . There was a 9.17% increase in the value of garment exports of Bangladesh between January-July 2021 . This is higher than many other South-Asian garment manufacturing countries such as Pakistan and India. After the garment industry of China, Bangladesh comes second in terms of garment exports.
As of 2020, t-shirts had the highest export value in Bangladesh amounting to $5.61 billion while the value of shirts in Bangladesh itself was just $1.8 billion . This difference indicates that Bangladesh’s garment industry is heavily dependent on exports for survival.
The following table highlights the main garment exports of Bangladesh. It shows that there has been a sharp rise in the demand for trousers, t-shirts, and knitted shirts. While there was a mixed pattern of constant ups and downs, trousers went up by $4000 million ($4 billion) between 2015-16 and 2021-22 . Similarly, by 2015-16, the value of t-shirts and knitted shirts was just around $6892 million ($6.892 billion) which went up to $9857 million ($9.857 billion) by 2021-22 .
Main Apparel Item Exported From Bangladesh
Value Million USD (Fiscal Year Basis)
Source: Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association 
Problems in the Garment Industry of Bangladesh
One of the biggest concerns with the garment industry of Bangladesh stands in the basic elements of safety. Regretfully, Bangladesh does not have suitable working conditions and a safe environment for the workers. In the past many years, Bangladesh has seen a large number of fire accidents in the factories in which thousands have died. One of the most notable incidents in this regard is the 2012 Dhaka Garment Factory Fire when the Tazreen Fashion Factory had a major fire accident resulting in the immediate death of 117 workers and 200 injured people as well . While it was initially ruled out as a problem of electrical short circuits, many experts suggested that this occurred as an act of sabotage and claims for insurance .
Several such incidents have occurred in the factories of Bangladesh which is why many global importers, as well as authorities, have expressed concerns over the safety of the workforce. Most recently, in 2021, another factory fire caused the death of 52 people who were “illegally” locked behind a door, as The Guardian reported . All of these incidents suggest that the factories in Bangladesh are not safe for work. This is why the garment industry of Bangladesh has a poor reputation.
Another important problem in the garment industry of Bangladesh is regarding wages. Reports suggest that the wages of garment factory workers in India are just around $84 to $100 a month. This is quite low as the workers believe that they need at least $170 a month to be living a no-savings life . While Bangladesh is earning billions from the sales of garments, the factory workers aren’t paid enough despite the high sales. The motivation level, as well as the productivity and quality of the work, are affected in a wrongful manner.
One reason why the wages are too low is that there is ample availability for the unskilled workforce. A study found out that there are 4.22 million people engaged in the ready-made garments sector with most of them having studied up to junior schooling at max . The locals are not given a good position in the industry and are only kept as workers while the foreigners are given managerial roles as well. Due to the low wages, about 73% of workers in the garment industry work overtime for an extra 8.5 hours to meet their financial ends .
Moreover, the garment industry of Bangladesh is not growing much in the local market due to low incomes and low purchasing power. The overall standard of living and situation in Bangladesh is not pleasant either . Long durations of power cuts, high poverty, high rate of inflation, and limited focus on education are key reasons why many industries in Bangladesh including the garment industry of Bangladesh are not prospering. Close competitors such as Pakistan and India’s garment industry are also going to become a major problem for Bangladesh if effective steps are not taken to counter the current problems.
Bangladesh is emerging as one of the most powerful countries in terms of garment exports. However, to ensure that the country stays on the right track, certain policy measures need to be taken right away to ensure that there are no forms of malpractices in the industry. Incidents such as fire disasters as well as the problem of child labor are of utmost concern. Apart from that, Bangladesh is expected to give tough competition to China, India, and Pakistan in terms of garment exports because of the free-trade agreement with the European Union.
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