Business, Finance & Economics

Changing Women's Lives in Bangladesh's Garment Factories

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Credit: REUTERS/Palash Khan
A worker sews inside a garment factory in Ashulia June 21, 2012. A four-day shutdown at more than 300 Bangladeshi clothes factories ended on Thursday after workers called off violent protests over pay, officials and witnesses said.

Thousands of mourners gathered on Tuesday to honor the victims of a collapsed garment factory in Bangladesh.The incident focused global attention on the poor safety standards at the factories.

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The Bangladesh government announced it would lift restrictions on forming trade unions and pledged to raise wages. Wages are among the lowest in the world.

Meanwhile, some of the world’s largest clothes retailers signed a pact to improve safety in factories.

And believe it or not, there are some positive effects from the massive grown of the garment industry in Bangladesh.

Yale University Professor Mushfiq Mobarak, an economics professor at the School of Management, studied the postitive outcomes of working at these factories.

He found that families who live in and around the factories are more likely to send their daughters to school to get an education.

“In a country that otherwise didn’t have opportunities for women to work outside the home… so suddenly there are returns to educating women because these factories require basic literacy,” Mobarak said.

According to Mobarak, young girls aged 5 to 10 “become more likely to stay enrolled in school. Fast forward 10-to-15 years and you find that these same girls become less likely to be married off at an early age like, 16 or 18, and they are also less likely to have their first childbirth at an early age. So these are all very important welfare benefits for Bangladeshi women in particular.

Mobarak admits that the factory’s working conditions are far from ideal and come with risks. “The real question to ask is what would happen to these women had the factories not been available. These women tend to be better off than other rural Bangladeshi women who do not have access to these factory jobs.”

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