Mapping the Garment Industry in Bangladesh: A Call for Transparency

February 20, 2019

The Center for Entrepreneurship Development at BRAC University in Dhaka, Bangladesh, published the results of what we assume will be the first phase of its digital mapping project of the country’s ready-made garment (RMG) sector. Initiated in 2017, the “Mapped in Bangladesh” project identifies 961 “export oriented” RMG facilities in Dhaka.

Our Center welcomes this and other mapping initiatives as a necessary first step in a comprehensive assessment of the full scope of safety issues in the RMG industry. We have also backed this project by sharing our research methodology and otherwise offering our support.

While we assume that this is only the initial phase of what will be an ongoing mapping effort,  the published results to date raise concerns. As they go forward, the authors of this study should consider that:

Against this background, it would be very useful for those who produced this study to provide more detail about how they did their research and the assumptions they made. For example, the methodology guide does not show the results of the first census that they conducted prior to cleaning up the data according to the specific definition of what qualifies as “export-oriented”.  For this mapping of the RMG industry they used 25 field officers that covered the country[2]  street by street. In addition, they interviewed locals (food sellers, police etc.) to ensure that they identified all production sites. Apparently, the field officers worked 3,300 man days over fours months in 2018 to complete the task, an indication of the scale of the project. In a pilot project BRAC conducted in 2015, the researchers concluded that there are over 8,000 facilities in Bangladesh. It would be interesting to see whether and how the unpublished census results differ from these initial estimates.

We would also welcome an outline of the project’s next steps for adding facilities to the map—in other locations and also in Dhaka. Likewise, it would be useful to have a timeline describing how researchers will go forward with this mapping exercise.

It is in the interest of the industry associations and the International Labor Organisation to ensure safe workplaces for all workers in the Bangladeshi garment industry, regardless of whether the facility falls within the project’s current definition of “export oriented.” Making progress towards creating a safe industry starts with a comprehensive mapping, but the map must include all facilities so that safety standards can be assessed and a strategic plan can be drafted to share responsibility for closing the safety gaps in the entire industry.


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