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Revised minimum wage in Bangladesh is not enough

28 February, 2024Last year, the minimum wage for Bangladesh’s ready made garment (RMG) was revised, but this year’s demand from the textile workers, who are involved in the production of the fabric, has gone unheard as last week, the wage board fixed the minimum wage for cotton textile sector workers at BDT10,000 (US$90).

The current minimum wage of textile workers is BDT5,710 (US$51), last fixed in 2018. Following the revision of minimum wage RMG workers last year, workers in textile mills also raised their voices for a wage increment. The cost of living in Bangladesh saw an unprecedented rise last year and in the absence of a wage hike in over five years, textile workers and their families had a difficult time meeting their daily needs.

Unfortunately the workers’ demand to secure a living wage and to be aligned with RMG workers, remained unmet. The proposed new wage for the lowest grade worker, that is helper, in textile sector is BDT10,000 (US$90) which includes allowances for housing, medical, food as well as travel. The wage hike is too little when viewed in the context of the inflation rate in the country. The annual inflation rate rose to 9.86 per cent in January 2024 from 9.41 per cent in December 2023. Prices have risen for clothing, housing, transportation as well as healthcare.

Kutubuddin Ahmed, IndustriALL Bangladesh Council’s general secretary and president of the Bangladesh Garments, Textile & Leather Workers' Federation, says:

“The situation of textile workers in Bangladesh is pitiable. We strongly denounce the proposed wage hike as it is not sufficient to meet the daily needs of workers and their families. It’s terrible that the wage board has overlooked workers’ demand of living wages, both in RMG as well as textile sector.”

The committee set up by the labour ministry to fix the wage for the textile sector did not have proper representation. The sectoral representatives from employers’ side and workers’ side were from only one factory. The workers’ representative in the committee was from the national centre affiliated to the ruling party, and no broad-based consultation was held.

Atle Høie, IndustriALL general secretary, says:

“Bangladesh’s wage board needs to take into consideration the rising cost of living while fixing minimum wage. It’s unjust that workers are forced to work for poverty wages. IndustriALL calls on the government of Bangladesh to engage with our affiliates and other trade unions, and seriously consider their demands.”

Photo credit: Crozet M. / ILO