Improving wages and working conditions in the Bangladeshi garment sector: the role of horizontal and vertical relations

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This paper deals with changes in wage and working conditions in the garment industry in Bangladesh. It focuses on economic upgrading of the industry brought about by functional upgrading. Such upgrading and changes in market conditions have increased firm revenues per worker. The paper then discusses the local situation related to workers’ organization and struggle, which recently resulted in increases in wages and improvements in working conditions. It deals with the impact of a high geographic concentration of workers and high growth of the industry in terms of increasing the voice of workers and forcing government and the industry to improve wages and working conditions. These improvements were the result of changes in horizontal relations within the garment global production network. The paper then looks at the role of vertical relations, between buyers and suppliers, in constraining such improvements. The paper ends with a consideration of the way in which combining vertical and horizontal relations could be brought into the tripartite industrial relations structure.