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Following the flow of favourable working orders, export-oriented RMG companies like Plummy Fashions are increasing their production capacity. The RMG producers are also under increasing pressure for exporting the products within the short lead-time (the time between the issuance of work order and product shipment). Enhancing workforce in the RMG factories is considerably driven by the two factors. However, some RMG industry owners said they were hardly finding the required number of skilled and semi-skilled workers.

While enquired, Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) vice-president Shahidullah Azim said that flow of work orders has increased by 10-15 per cent this year compared to 2019. Due to the increased work orders, recruitment of workers would increase by 5-7 per cent, meaning that the RMG sector would create more than 200,000 jobs.

There is no government statistics on the RMG factories and workers in the country. However, BRAC University’s entrepreneur development centre MAPPED in Bangladesh let us know that the country has 3,384 export-oriented RMG factories where around 2,666,000 workers work. Of the workers, 1,113,000 are male and 1,553,000 are female.

If statistics of the MAPPED in Bangladesh and BGMEA’s projection are considered, the country’s RMG sector may recruit 133,000-186,000 workers in the coming days. However, there are 675 factories out of 3,384 which are not members either of BGMEA or BKMEA. Hence, the projection on the new recruits would be downgraded. Besides, the pandemic-time furloughed workers are being recruited again.

Snowtex Group is one the top RMG exporters. The company export RMG products worth $250 million annually. Recently, Snowtex outerwear and sportswear units got 6,000 new workers. And 1,000 more new workers are going to be recruited there.

Snowtex Group managing director SM Khaled told Prothom Alo, “Currently, we have work orders double than that of 2019. We could entertain more work orders if our production capacity was more than now.”

RMG industry entrepreneurs said the United States and the European Union countries have regained normalcy after vaccinating maximum of their population. Hence the US and European brand buyers are issuing work orders–like the pre-pandemic style–to cash on the demands for the coming summer and spring seasons. Besides, their interest has been shifted to Bangladesh from the military ruled- Myanmar and Covid-affected India.

Earlier, the US-European brand buyers transferred some work orders to Bangladesh from China while the on-going Covid restriction (lockdown) in Vietnam helped Bangladesh catch some opportunities. Overall, Bangladeshi RMG producers have received 15-20 per cent more work orders this year compared to 2019.

The Chattogram-based Denim Expert recruited 350 workers in last couple of months, and will get 350 more, following the increased work orders. Denim Expert managing director Mostafiz Uddin told Prothom Alo, “Every day I receive phone calls from the brand buyers. We have not bear with such a volume of work orders in last five years. However, shortage of workers now seems a big crisis. We cannot find the required amount of workers. That’s why we cannot expand our production capacity.”

The RMG export market has been recovering from the impacts of the first wave of coronavirus. Till June of the 2020-21 fiscal, Bangladesh exported RMG products worth $1.45 billion—12 per cent higher the previous fiscal. The first month of 2021-22 fiscal saw less export growth. However in August, Bangladesh exported apparels worth $2.75 billion—11 per cent higher than the corresponding month of last year.

Sparrow Apparels Limited is another top RMG exporter. The company runs a joint-venture factory in Jordan, besides four ones in Bangladesh. Annually, the Sparrow Apparels export garment products worth $200 million, equivalent to Tk17 billion. After the Eid-ul-Azha, the company recruited 800 workers.

Sparrow Apparels managing director Shovon Islam said, “Production at several lines remained halted due to the Covid pandemic and other reasons. We have restored those production lines to complete the increased work orders.”

Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA) vice-president Mohammad Hatem told Prothom Alo, “The brand buyers are issuing work orders with shorter lead-time. Enhancement of workforce is due for meeting the production target within the limited time. The situation demands additional workers (5 per cent of the existing workforce).”

He said almost all the RMG companies have hanged recruitment notice at their entry gates.

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