ISSUE BRIEF: Understanding the Gender Composition and Experience of Ready-Made Garment (RMG) Workers in Bangladesh
Bangladesh’s ready-made garment (RMG) sector is an important driver of economic growth. From an industry that generated a few million dollars in export earnings in the 1970s, it is now an industry of USD 30 billion (2017–2018) that accounts for 83 per cent of the country’s total export revenue. Women comprise the majority of the RMG workforce and it is clear that women workers have significantly contributed to the development of the RMG sector, and to the growth of Bangladesh’s economy in recent decades. Although the sector has evolved to become an important driver of economic growth, employment generation and poverty reduction, significant concerns remain about whether or not its evolution has been accompanied by positive change for workers, particularly women workers, in terms of better working conditions and a better working environment.
The study, commissioned by International Labour Organization’s (ILO) and UN Women Bangladesh, examined the factors that enable and inhibit men and women workers from accessing, remaining and advancing in jobs in the RMG sector. Recommendations based on its findings highlight policies, programmes and practices required to ensure that the RMG sector evolves in a way that promotes gender equality – so that the benefits of sectoral and economic growth are enjoyed equally by both women and men.