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The RMG industry years, belying the

in Bangladesh has grown phenomenally over the past twenty

initial

scepticism

about

its

long-term

sustainability.

In

2004/05 garment exports amounted to approximately 5.4 billion accounting for 66 percent of the country’s total export earnings3. export markets, the US and the EU, Bangladesh ranked 10th and 3rd, in terms of export value at the end of 2004.

US dollars, In its main respectively,

Despite this seemingly remarkable 1995 there was much discussion of

performance, however, in the the uncertainties looming over

decade from the future of

the industry.

In December 1994, with the conclusion of the Uruguay Round, the

Multi

Fibre

Agreement

(MFA)

which

had

governed

global

trade

in

textile

and

clothing (ATC).

since 1974 was succeeded by the Agreement on Textile and Clothing The ATC called for a gradual phasing out of all MFA restrictions by the

year 2005. As will be discussed in the following section, the MFA regime provided an opportunity for the RMG industry to be implanted in Bangladesh by inducing a structural shift in the sourcing of global exports of textiles and clothing

and ensuring guaranteed access to some markets.

There were

opposing views

Bangladesh

in the post-MFA

about the

era.

The

prospects optimistic

of the RMG industry of view emphasized the solid

position Bangladesh had garments produced with

held over the years an abundant supply

as of

a reliable source of skilled, cheap labour.

cheap The

pessimists, meanwhile, saw no

mega-competition.

What

was

chance for Bangladesh to survive in the certain, however, was that performance

global of the

industry and that

as a whole would to workers’ lives would

a substantial extent depend on worker performance be profoundly affected. The main objective of this

paper is to assess the actual impact through a sample survey of workers.

of

MFA

withdrawal

on

RMG

workers’

lives

3 According to Economic Trends, published by Bangladesh Bank, garment exports and total exports in 2004/05 were Tk.333.33 billion and Tk.508.35 billion, respectively. The yearly average exchange rate of that year was Tk.61.39 = US$1.

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