Bangladesh's exports rose 7.22 per cent in May, from a year earlier, boosted by stronger clothing sales. In the first 11 months of this financial year, exports rose 12.56 per cent from a year earlier. Garment exports surged nearly 15 per cent in July-May 2013. The garment industry, which supplies to many western brands, has been in the spotlight after a string of fatal factory accidents.
Garments are a vital sector for the south Asian nation, whose low wages and duty-free access to western markets have helped make it the world's largest apparel exporter after China. The readymade garment industry in Bangladesh employs four million people. It has been looking for government support to buy land and relocate factories in unsafe buildings to a planned industrial park. The 2014-15 budget removed import duties on raw materials to make pre-fabricated buildings and abolished taxes on safety equipment such as fire-resistant doors and emergency lights. Global buyers have stopped giving orders to around 30 per cent of garment factories that are housed in unsafe, shared buildings.
Late last year, the government raised the minimum wage for garment workers by 77 per cent and amended its labor law to boost worker rights, including the freedom to form trade unions.