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Bangladesh Garment Wages the Lowest in the World--Comparative Garment Worker Wages

August, 19 2010 Share

Even with the new minimum wage of 3,000 taka a month for garment workers--which is to go into effect in November--Bangladesh will still have the lowest wages in the world.

The powerful Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) and even some in the government have said that international solidarity in support of the workers' demand for 5,000 taka was just a ploy by wealthy nations like the United States and the United Kingdom to steal garment jobs from Bangladesh and return them to their countries.

This is completely untrue, and it can easily be proven that the BGMEA is trying to mislead and frighten the workers.

 

Here are the facts:

  • Bangladesh is the third largest exporter in the world of garments to the U.S., following only China and Vietnam.
  • In 2009, Bangladesh shipped $3.41 billion worth of garments to the U.S.
  • The United States is not trying to steal garment jobs from Bangladesh.  In fact, 97 percent of all garments purchased in the U.S. are imports--with Bangladesh as the third largest supplier.
  • There are only 75,140 sewing operators left in the U.S., in comparison with Bangladesh's 3.5 million garment jobs.
  • U.S. garment wages range from $8.25 (573.38 taka) to $14.00 (973 taka) per hour, based on production.  And this does not include healthcare, vacation, holidays and other benefits.
  • In the United Kingdom, garment workers earn a minimum wage of $7.58 (526.81 taka) to $9.11 (633.15 taka) per hour, depending on the worker's age and experience.  Again, this does not include healthcare and other benefits.

 

Garment Wages across the World:

  • The largest apparel manufacturer in the world is China, where the current minimum wage is 93 U.S. cents (64.64 taka) an hour.  (In China, minimum wages are set by municipalities.  The minimum wage in Guangzhou City, Guangdong Province--which is typical--is 93 cents (64.64 taka) an hour.
  • Vietnam is the 2nd largest apparel exporter to the U.S.  In urban areas such as Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City--similar to Dhaka, Savar and Chittagong--Vietnamese garment workers earn 52 cents (36.14 taka) an hour.  Even in rural areas of Vietnam, garment workers earn a minimum wage of at least 36 cents (25.02 taka) an hour.

  • In India--in Delhi--unskilled garment workers earn a minimum wage of 55 cents (38.23 taka) an hour, while skilled sewing operators earn at least 68 cents (47.26 taka) an hour.

  • In other major apparel producing areas, such as Central America, garment workers' wages are even higher.  For example, garment workers in Honduras earn $1.02 (70.89 taka) an hour;  in Guatemala, apparel workers earn a minimum of $1.21 (84.10 taka) an hour.  Wages in El Salvador are 92 cents (63.94 taka) an hour;  in Costa Rica, $2.19 (63.94 taka) an hour, and in Nicaragua garment wages are 65 cents (45.18 taka) an hour.

  • In 2010, garment wages in Venezuela are $2.73 (189.74 taka) an hour;  in Jordan, $.74 (51.78 taka) an hour; in Mauritius, $.55 to $.65 (38.23 to 45.18 taka) an hour, while even Sri Lanka has a minimum wage of 46 cents (31.97 taka) an hour.
  • As of 2009, minimum garment wages in Mexico were 50 to 53 cents (34.06 to 69.50 taka) an hour;  in the Philippines, the apparel wage was $.94 to $1.00 (34.06 to 69.50 taka), while Indonesia has a minimum garment wage of $.35 to $.71 (24.33 to 49.35 taka) an hour.  It is likely that these minimum wages increased in 2010.

  • Even back in 2007, garment workers in Bahrain were earning 57 cents (39.62 taka) an hour;  in Egypt, from 50 to 87 cents (34.75 to 60.47 taka) an hour, while the minimum wage in Malaysia was 73 cents (50.74 taka) an hour.

  • Other garment wages in 2008 were $1.20 (83.40 taka) an hour in Columbia;  92 cents (63.94 taka) an hour in Peru, and 37 cents (25.72 taka) in Pakistan.  It is likely that as of 2010, these minimum wages have also risen.

 

Country Hourly Wage
United States $8.25-14.00
United Kingdom $7.58-9.11
Venezeula $2.73
Costa Rica $2.19
Guatemala $1.21
Colombia $1.20
Honduras $1.02
Philippines $0.94-1.00
China $0.93
Peru $0.92
El Salvador $0.92
Jordan $0.74
Malaysia $0.73
Nicaragua $0.65
Bahrain $0.57
Thailand $0.56
India $0.55-0.68
Mauritius $0.55-0.65
Vietnam $0.52
Egypt $0.50-0.87
Mexico $0.50-0.53
Sri Lanka $0.46
Pakistan $0.37
Indonesia $0.35
Cambodia $0.24
Bangladesh $0.21

 

As can be seen, even with the new minimum wage to take effect in November 2010, Bangladesh definitely has the lowest minimum wage in the world at 21 cents-14.60 taka-an hour!  Even if the garment workers had won their demand for 5,000 taka a month, this still would only amount to 35 cents-24.33 taka-an hour, which is still lower than any other garment wage in the world.

 

Bangladesh's garment workers are clearly among the hardest working women and men in the world, but also the most exploited.  It is the giant multinationals like Wal-Mart, Asda, Tesco, H&M and others, along with BGMEA, who are driving down the wages of Bangladesh's garment workers and trapping them in misery.