United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD), Geneva
Women entering the industrial labour force in Bangladesh generally find themselves in low skill/low wage jobs. In fact, the success of the country's flagship export-oriented industry - the ready-made garments sector - is built on a large supply of cheap and flexible female labour. Nevertheless, increasing liberalization of the global textiles market creates new challenges for countries and industries that rely on a low skill/low wage strategy. They eventually find it difficult to increase productivity, and thus to retain their place in increasingly competitive markets. A second incentive for change is provided by the phasing out of the Multi-Fiber Arrangement, which limited inputs of domestic origin in clothing production. In the current situation, Bangladesh has a unique opportunity to restructure its domestic apparel sector, introducing new technologies and fostering domestic production linkages. Thus the paper argues for public sector allocations combined with private sector training of the female labour force, which can stimulate women's engagement in the apparel sector, raise their productivity and ultimately improve their livelihoods.