Garment labour productivity per hour is still lower in Bangladesh than its rivals except Cambodia in average output, according to the latest data.
Bangladesh, being the second-largest garment exporter, is also the second lowest in terms of productivity which, according to the data, is valued at $3.4.
On the other hand, the largest garment exporter China's per hour productivity is calculated at $11.1.
Last week, Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI) revealed the statistics, quoting the Asian Productivity Organization (APO) Database 2018.
Per hour labour productivity is calculated as the value of GDP produced per hour at constant price, it said.
Based on per hour work, the highest labour productivity is recorded in Sri Lanka at $15.9, followed by Indonesia $12.3 and the Philippines $8.7.
Labour productivity of other major garment exporters India, Vietnam and Myanmar are also the higher which are $7.5, $4.7 and $4.1 respectively.
Benchmarking with China, labour productivity in Sri Lanka and Indonesia are higher than China.
The labour productivity gap between Bangladesh and China is 69 per cent.
Bangladesh stays behind all seven garment producing countries except Cambodia which has a 77 per cent gap with China.
For other countries, lower gap in China indicates that labour force of those countries is more productive, according to latest data.
Industry insiders have identified lower labour productivity as one of the major challenges like wage hike, energy hike, remediation cost, deflation and falling global apparel price for sustainable garment industry.
When asked, Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) president Dr Rubana Huq said, "There must be a fair equation between productivity and wage."
"A wage-skill grid should help us assess workers' skill and they must also be made to understand that with falling prices, the industry can't survive unless productivity is increased," she stated.
Lower productivity adds to increasing production costs and hence, the BGMEA, through its proposed efficiency cell, will have industrial engineers to advise factories, should they require assistance.
"Wastage of resources must be minimised, failing which we will only have additional costs piling up on our platter," Ms Huq mentioned.
According to the BGMEA, prices of the locally made apparel items fell by 3.64 per cent in Europe and 7.04 per cent in the United States from 2014 to 2018.
Production cost shot up by 30 per cent during the period followed by enhanced wage and energy rate, transport cost and high bank interest rate, among others, it said.
Echoing Ms Huq, Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association former president Fazlul Hoque said enhanced productivity helps lessen per unit overhead cost.
Long-term benefit can be achieved if wastage, a factory produces, can be lessened, he observed.
Babul Akhter, a labour leader, said productivity should be raised but it can't be increased putting pressure on workers by only raising their hourly work target.
It negatively affects their health, he uttered.
But there should be in-depth research on how productivity could be increased through installing modern machinery, training and technological upgradation, he said.
Mr Akhter admitted that automation might take place with the passage of time. "It should be to cope with the future challenges."
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