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Competitiveness in he Garment and Textiles Industry: A Case Study of Bangladesh

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  1. 1. South Asian Studies Association Brown Bag Radio The following slides accompany a live webcast/podcast and are part of the South Asian Studies Association’s Brown Bag Radio initiative. Information on SASA can be found at . BBR podcasts are archived at . Slide shows are the intellectual property of their respective presenters. Sanchita B. Saxena Competitiveness in the Garment and Textiles Industry: A Case Study of Bangladesh
  2. 2. Competitiveness in the Garment and Textiles Industry: A Case Study of Bangladesh Sanchita B. Saxena, Ph.D Vice Chair, Center for South Asia Studies UC Berkeley January 14, 2009 This research was supported by funding from The Asia Foundation and the International and Area Studies Division at UC Berkeley.
  3. 3. Background <ul><ul><ul><li>2005: Phase-out of the MFA and the quota system: created an uncompetitive atmosphere for decades </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>While China’s market share did grow very fast, contrary to many predictions, many of the “unexpected” countries did survive </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Goals of study: </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>What is the role of external actors (changing trade rules, international buyers, etc.) on Bangladesh’s domestic reforms to improve competitiveness? </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Have perceptions changed among the different stakeholders in terms of what needs to be done for Bangladesh to remain competitive? </li></ul></ul></ul>
  4. 4. Total apparel exports from Bangladesh (1994-2006) in millions of USD Data compiled from the BGMEA
  5. 5. % of Bangladesh’s RMG export to its total exports Data compiled from the BGMEA 60.64 1992-93 73.28 1997-98 75.14 2000-01 35.24 1988-89 76.04 2006-07 74.79 2003-04 50.47 1990-91 16.05 1985-86 3.89 1983-84 % of RMG to total Year
  6. 6. 2008: A changing Trade Environment <ul><li>Vietnam entered the WTO </li></ul><ul><li>US and EU textile safeguards on China </li></ul><ul><li>expired on January 1, 2009 </li></ul><ul><li>US recession and economic slowdown </li></ul><ul><li>Some evidence of a slow decline in exports from countries like Bangladesh and Cambodia in 2007 </li></ul>
  7. 7. 2004 to 2008: Changes in perceptions about the sector <ul><li>Back in 2005, the question we were asking was which countries will survive? </li></ul><ul><li>Three years later, the interesting question was: what factors are important for countries hoping to continue maintaining market share in garments and textiles? </li></ul><ul><li>Now, at the end of 2008, the question in Bangladesh seems to be: how can the sector explode and grow like never before? </li></ul><ul><li>“ Bangladesh is doing well after the end of the MFA, but we are not satisfied. We have the potential to grow more…[the question is] do we want to do 25 billion dollars of business or stay at 10.5 million?” (BGMEA Pres.) </li></ul>
  8. 8. External factors influencing domestic reforms <ul><ul><li>Bernstein and Cashore (2000) identify four distinct paths of non-domestic influence on public policy. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>In the case of Bangladesh, changes in international trade rules (end of quotas) and international actors (buyers and NGOs) have influenced policy reforms at the country and factory levels </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What changes have they influenced and how have other stakeholders been involved in influencing these changes? </li></ul></ul>
  9. 9. Relationship among the stakeholders End of the MFA Decision making by International Buyers - Do we continue to source from Bangladesh? Government: National level policy changes to improve competitiveness Factory owners : Changes at factory level to improve competitiveness Middle managers: Changes at factory level to improve competitiveness Factory workers Quality product International NGOs
  10. 10. Understanding competitiveness <ul><li>Most studies on competitiveness have attempted to quantify productivity in terms of the number of garments produced in an hour, or studies have been done trying to understand only what buyers are looking for in various countries. </li></ul><ul><li>Though this research is valuable, the studies usually stop there by concluding that Country X is not being as productive or factory Y is more or less productive than factory Z. </li></ul><ul><li>Our study is the first to try and understand perceptions and ideas behind competitiveness from the perspective of all of the key players in the industry. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Is there a consensus or a disconnect in perceptions between buyers on the one hand, and others who will impact the factors that they deem as important, particularly government officials who set policies and factory owners who set policies and standards in their particular factories? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Finally, we wanted to understand how the workers themselves view competitiveness and what policies could be employed to help them increase their productivity and efficiency. </li></ul>
  11. 11. What do stakeholders believe are the key factors for competitiveness?- 1 <ul><li>Qualitative “perception” study : </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Perception on various competitiveness / productivity factors </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Comparing perspectives from all stakeholders </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Perceptions of what the others are doing to improve the sector </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Methodology </li></ul><ul><li>Structured interviews with government officials, factory owners, and middle managers </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Wide ranging panel of knowledgeable informants </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Using a carefully worked out guide with open ended and close ended questions, some checklists common to all respondents. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Case studies with three international retailers sourcing in Bangladesh and other countries </li></ul>
  12. 12. What do stakeholders believe are the key factors for competitiveness?- 2 <ul><li>Seven focus group discussions with factory workers (33 workers total) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Random selection of participants from various garment factories in Dhaka </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Conducted in Bangla and translated to English </li></ul></ul>
  13. 13. Findings: Role of govt. before phase-out <ul><li>In early 2008, there seemed to be a disconnect in perceptions between government officials on one side and owners and workers on the other about the effectiveness of the Government’s actions </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ We have been working with the private sector for the further development of this sector. They expect the government to provide services to them in line with their necessity. The government is providing maximum services (policy, cost minimization, smooth supply lines etc.) in spite of limitations so far” (Ministry of Commerce official) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ The discussion [with the government] concentrated on policy reforms, productivity, training of workers and compliance issues. The discussion was effective in that it raised the awareness of garment factory owners and other stakeholders. However, the government, which was late in acting, did not change its policies…The government organized seminars and workshops, however they could not conduct these in an effective manner” (Factory owner) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ The government is indifferent about the garment industry. It seems the government does not attach any importance to this industry” (Factory employee) </li></ul></ul>
  14. 14. Findings: Role of govt. now <ul><li>In late 2008, however, other stakeholders seemed to have a more positive perception of the governments’ actions to aid the sector. </li></ul><ul><li>Workers and owners started seeing the effects of some laws that were passed in 2006 and buyers and owners mentioned some infrastructure improvements, like increased capacity of the Chittagong port. </li></ul><ul><li>Most agreed that the government really needs to focus on more improvements, especially with respect to power generation, as well as on management training. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ The sector has evolved recently. There is a good dialogue with the government…the government has done a good job…there have been some improvements in the last few years” (Factory owner). </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ The government has made some progress, but it needs to be more proactive to support investment projects and improve infrastructure” (Factory owner). </li></ul></ul>
  15. 15. Findings: Buyers’ Strategy post-MFA <ul><li>Buyers continued to buy from Bangladesh, sometimes increased orders </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ We felt the heat at the time [after the phase-out] but the buyers did not leave us” (Factory owner) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ The company intends to steadily increase its sourcing from Bangladesh by 10-15% each year” (International buyer) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Why? quality and capacity of factories (including a competent labor force) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Price is important but buyers first look at samples and then place orders, so quality is more important” (Factory worker) </li></ul></ul>
  16. 16. Findings: Factory competitiveness (in order of importance)- 1 International Retailer Factory Owners Low cost Training of workers Pre-production assisting/ Ability to deal with sophisticated designs/materials Technological advancements Living wages for workers Long standing prior relationship with your buyer Ability to deal with sophisticated designs/materials Good working conditions/ Healthcare Speed to market/ Labor standards Productivity of workers Low cost/ Productivity/ Quality/ Pre-production assisting/ Reliability Speed to market
  17. 17. Findings: Factory competitiveness (in order of importance)- 2 <ul><li>Factory owners view good working conditions and provision of healthcare as very important </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ If they [employees] are healthy, not sick, it is helping us, helping our productivity…” (Factory owner) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Following from other recent studies, it is not just cost, but a combination of factors that are important at the factory level. </li></ul><ul><li>For this international retailer, it is cost along with quality, productivity, pre-production assisting, and reliability, that makes a factory competitive) </li></ul>
  18. 18. Factors influencing competitiveness <ul><li>Respondents were asked to pick the top five factors (out of a list of 29) that were the most important in making Bangladesh competitive </li></ul><ul><li>Factors were grouped into nine broad categories </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Trade </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Political climate and endowments </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Policy environment </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Labor </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Factory capacity </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Costs </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Infrastructure </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Financial environment </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Productivity </li></ul></ul>
  19. 19. Findings: Bangladesh’s Competitiveness- 1 <ul><li>Productivity consistently mentioned as key to competitiveness </li></ul><ul><li>Not surprisingly, workers linked productivity to increased wages and better working conditions </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ If wages are increased, the quality of work will improve and more buyers will come…” (Factory worker) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Interestingly, some owners have also began to make this connection </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ If you don’t offer comfort for workers, how can you increase productivity?” (Factory owner) </li></ul></ul>
  20. 20. Findings: Bangladesh Competitiveness- 2 <ul><li>As other studies have found, international retailers want “more” from countries, including full package production and a quick time to market. However, all the key stakeholders in the industry do not recognize these as important. </li></ul><ul><li>These groups continue to focus on issues like labor compliance and production costs, which are necessary, but not sufficient conditions for buyers’ decision making </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ The buyers will buy their products from the cheapest sources. Bangladesh is offering competitive prices. The cost of production has gone up in China due to increase in wages. Garment prices have also gone up in other countries...” (Factory owner) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Ranked in order of importance by international retailer (cost is not top of mind): </li></ul><ul><ul><li>1) Productivity , 2) Quality of labor, 3) Politics and stability in the country, 4) Ability to carry out ‘full package’ production, 5) Time to market, 6) Labor cost , and 7) Labor skills </li></ul></ul>
  21. 21. Findings: Main Competitors - 1 <ul><li>China is most frequently mentioned </li></ul><ul><li>Vietnam is the second most frequently mentioned competitor due to many of the similar factors as China </li></ul><ul><li>Followed by Sri Lanka, Cambodia, and India </li></ul><ul><li>Most frequently mentioned reasons are: low cost and high productivity, strong government support, availability of raw materials, and good infrastructure </li></ul><ul><li>But the perception of Bangladesh’s future is still positive </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ The experience of post-MFA had been positive. The ‘fear’ of China has made us intensify our efforts to increase productivity” (Factory owner) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Bangladesh is looking to be in the permanent # 2 spot…” (Factory owner) </li></ul></ul>
  22. 22. Exports to the U.S. between 2007-2008 of Bangladesh and its competitors Data from the U.S. Dept. of Commerce, Office of Textiles and Apparel
  23. 23. Findings: Rating of Competitors- 2 <ul><li>Though the international retailer gave China the highest rating, Bangladesh received a “4” </li></ul>Closer to fabric base, price, product mix, infrastructure 5 China Infrastructure, capacity, costs 4 Indonesia Fabric and textile base, availability of raw materials 4 Pakistan Very small country, low capacity 3 Cambodia Product mix (variety), textile base, raw materials availability, IT 3 India Labor cost, capacity, political problems 1 Sri Lanka Cost, capacity, quality (needle work) 4 Bangladesh Perceived factors of success Rating Country
  24. 24. Findings: Perception of Bangladesh’s Weaknesses and Strengths <ul><li>Weaknesses </li></ul><ul><ul><li>P roductivity mentioned as of the most important factor in making Bangladesh more competitive, it is also cited as one of the country’s top weaknesses, </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Poor infrastructure (“there is only one cargo train service per day between Dhaka and Chittagong”- International retailer), </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Slow lead times (By factory owners) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Lack of backward linkages (most mentioned by gvmt and larger factory owner), </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Poor working conditions (most cited by workers) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Strengths </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Strengths most cited are cheap labor and quality </li></ul></ul>
  25. 25. There were clearly disconnects between the different groups in early 2008… <ul><li>Between the government and factory owners and workers, about what the Government policies should focus on </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Government: Trade agreements, training for workers </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Factory owners: Infrastructure, backward linkages </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Workers: Minimum wage, working conditions </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Between factory owners and workers </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Owners feel they are responsive to the needs of workers, but workers stress a lack of communication </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>“ Sometimes I hear from BBC that such and such leader of BGMEA said he will do this and that for the workers, but I have not directly heard any leader saying this” (Factory worker) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Much of this disconnect is attributed to the inefficiencies of middle managers (this is agreed upon by both owners and workers) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>“ Owners are kept in the dark (by management staff) and not told about the need/ demand of the workers” (Factory worker) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Between buyers and other stakeholders on what to focus on to improve competitiveness </li></ul>
  26. 26. Almost a year later, there is more convergence among the groups in terms of what has been done and what needs to be done <ul><li>Raise in minimum wage law enacted in 2006 was implemented in 2008 </li></ul><ul><li>Some improvement in the port situation </li></ul><ul><li>Benefits to workers (health, safety, child care, etc.) </li></ul><ul><li>Changes in attitudes </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Owners are listening to us more now…buyers are paying attention (and putting pressure), laws are changing…” (Factory worker) </li></ul></ul>
  27. 27. Pyramid of needs- industry is maturing Changes in work culture: CSR Better treatment by managers and owners Basic working conditions: higher wages, health, safety, child care 2004 2007-- 2008--
  28. 28. The sector has come a long way… <ul><li>The sector has come a long way from the images of sweatshops to factories that are efficient and providing good working conditions </li></ul><ul><li>Bangladesh’s story is hopeful one. Fell into this sector by “accident,” but now it has a real potential to fuel economic growth, make significant domestic reforms, and change societal attitudes about gender, class, labor, etc. </li></ul><ul><li>Though there have been improvements, not all of it has “trickled down” to the workers. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>National laws are enacted but not enforced. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Owners may be progressive, but they are not working with the workers everyday. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Middle managers are badly trained. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Older respondents all did say that they have seen changes over the last few years. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Young workers who are just entering the sector, still found conditions difficult. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>“ Entrepreneurs are disconnected from the floor; they don’t go to the factories and meet with the workers. The worker/owner link is missing. The dialogue with the workforce needs to be strengthened. We need to talk to the workers and among ourselves. We need to “build a bridge…These workers can move mountains if only we could MOTIVATE them” (Factory Owner) </li></ul></ul></ul>
  29. 29. How can the sector explode? <ul><li>Need to invest in: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Better machines </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Training of middle managers </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Implement the laws that have been enacted </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Infrastructure </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Provide value added products </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>“ Technology needs to be updated to go to more complicated products with more added value…we shy away from complicated products because we are not equips in terms of technology and education… R&D in production is zero, R&D in design is zero, R&D in management is zero”. We need some to improve productivity.” (Factory owner). </li></ul></ul></ul>
  30. 30. New body of literature argues that in the post-MFA era, low costs are not simply enough <ul><ul><li>Time to market: “Within the new competitive environment, time proximity is more important than low wages in defining competitiveness. It follows that countries should pay great attention to the logistical dimensions involved in their production and delivery chains” (Kelegama 2005).” </li></ul></ul>
  31. 31. Need to invest in order to remain competitive <ul><ul><li>Innovation: “The end of quotas, and the ongoing churning in the global division of labor can be an opportunity for apparel firms to chart an alternative growth path based on deeper skills, innovation, design and quality upgrading, in addition to low unit costs… a narrow focus on relative prices, low wages and large scales- the standard attributes of a traditional growth strategy- obscures precisely the factors that are central to sustaining export competitiveness today…. global competitiveness in the apparel industry today requires competencies that go well beyond traditional factors of relative price and low wages” (Tewari 2007). </li></ul></ul>
  32. 32. BG can raise its costs, invest in infrastructure, human resources, and technology, and still be competitive <ul><ul><li>“ PRICES need to be increased. Factories need to be able to survive and invest and upgrade. There is no more flexibility for factories. The factory price is less than 20% of the final price. 80% is in the hands of the buyers, and they have to make an effort to be more efficient. No other country can produce the same volumes at such low prices. If Bangladesh wants to be a leader in the global market, we need to increase the prices, otherwise factories cannot scale-up.” (Factory owner) </li></ul></ul>
  33. 33. External players can continue to influence positive changes <ul><li>International buyers can: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Invest in infrastructure and upgrading skills, technology </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Uphold compliance </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>“ Buyers have made a lot of money in the business. They have not invested in the country at all to help improve infrastructures or environment. They do a few things but whatever they do is negligible and not in line with their speech” (Factory owner). </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>“ From buyers, we need help to increase PRODUCTIVITY. We need technical help. We need more skills in production, design, and management” (Factory owner). </li></ul></ul></ul>
  34. 34. Producing garments, from start to finish- 1
  35. 35. Producing garments, from start to finish- 2