Home-Based Workers in the Export Garment Sector in Bangladesh: An Exploratory Study in Dhaka City

An important feature of garment sector employment is its heterogeneity: ranging from ‘formal’ employment (i.e. jobs with benefits and social protection) to employment characterized by varying degrees of informality that account for an increasing share of total employment. At one end of this continuum are home‐based workers supplying subcontracted labour to the export garment factories through agents and contractors working on a piece-rate basis. This section of the workforce (mainly married women with children and low skills) having few labour market choices and little bargaining power vis‐à‐vis employers, generates a plentiful pool of ‘cheap’ female labour.  Although factory‐based garment sector employment has featured prominently in academic research and activist arenas in Bangladesh, not much is known about the situation of home‐based workers in this sector, and they continue to remain an invisible segment of the labour market. The purpose of this exploratory study is to undertake a situation analysis of home‐based workers in the export garment sector (HBGW) as the first step towards systematic documentation of this phenomenon. In this investigation, particular emphasis is placed upon the conditions of employment and the livelihoods of the workers and the issues around their lack of organization, highlighting the role of intermediaries and agents and more traditional labour organizations.

Authors: Simeen Mahmud; Lopita Huq
Type: Report
Year: 2013