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Making South Asian Apparel Exports More Competitive

Ritika D’Souza's picture

Apparel workers in Bangladesh

There is now a huge window of opportunity for South Asia to create more apparel jobs, as rising wages in China compel buyers to look to other sourcing destinations.  Our new report – Stitches to Riches?: Apparel Employment, Trade, and Economic Development in South Asia  –  estimates that the region could create 1.5 million new apparel jobs, of which half a million would be for women. And these jobs would be good for development, because they employ low-skilled workers in large numbers, bring women into the workforce (which benefits their families and society), and facilitate knowledge spillovers that benefit the economy as a whole.

But for these jobs to be created, our report finds that apparel producers will need to become more competitive – chiefly by (i) strengthening links between the apparel and textile sectors; (ii) moving into design, marketing, and branding; and (iii) shifting from a concentration on cotton products to including those made from man-made fibers (MMFs) – now discouraged by high tariffs and import barriers. These suggestions recently drew strong support from panels of academics and representatives from the private sector and government when the report was launched mid-year in Colombo, Delhi, Dhaka, and Islamabad. South Asia is now moving on some of these fronts but a lot more could be done.

Moving up the apparel value chain
Stitches to Riches? finds that South Asia’s abundant low-cost labor supply makes it extremely cost competitive (except for possibly Sri Lanka). But rapidly rising living costs in apparel manufacturing hubs, coupled with international scrutiny, are increasing pressure on producers to raise wages. Plus, countries like Ethiopia and Kenya, who enjoy a similar cost advantage, are entering the fray, and some East Asian countries already pose a big challenge. The good news is that the policy reforms needed to keep the apparel sector competitive would likely benefit other export industries and transform economies (view end of the blog).

How much of China’s apparel production can South Asia capture?

Raymond Robertson's picture
Clothing Manufacturing
Apparel manufactuaring has the potential to provide much needed jobs to women in South Asia
Photo by: Arne Hoel/World Bank

China now dominates the global apparel market – accounting for 41% of the market, compared with 12% for South Asia. But as wages in China continue to rise, its apparel production is expected to shift toward other developing countries, especially in Asia. How much of China’s apparel production can South Asia capture and therefore how much employment could be created? This is important because apparel is a labor intensive industry that historically employs relatively large numbers of female workers. 
 
In our new report, Stiches to Riches?, we estimate that South Asia could create at least 1.5 million jobs, of which half a million would be for women. Moreover, that is a conservative estimate, given that we are assuming no changes in policies to foster growth in apparel and address existing impediments.

Pathways to Prosperity: An e-Symposium

Onno Ruhl's picture

 

Blog #1: Five key drivers of reducing poverty in India

India is uniquely placed to drive global poverty reduction. The country is home to the largest number of poor people in the world, as well as the largest number of people who have recently escaped poverty. Despite an emerging middle class, many of India’s people are still vulnerable to falling back into poverty.

Over the next few weeks, this series will look back and analyze publicly available data to better understand what has driven poverty reduction from the mid-1990s until 2012, and the potential pathways that can lead to a more prosperous India. Since it is clearly not feasible to elaborate on all the myriad pathways out of poverty available to India, we focus on a few key themes that the diagnostics show to be of particular relevance to the country. We hope this series will contribute to the ongoing discussions on how poverty can be eliminated from India.

We are thankful to the Indian Express for partnering with us in disseminating this series to its readers.

आइये, खाना पकाने के ग़लत तरीकों से छुटकारा पाएं

Anita Marangoly George's picture

और इन भाषाओं में: English | Español | Français | العربية | 中文

An Indian woman cooking. Photo credit: Romana Manpreet and Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves


यह एक सच्‍चाई है: लकड़ी, चारकोल, कोयले, गोबर के उपलों और फसल के बचे हुए हिस्‍सों सहित ठोस जलावन (सॉलिड फ्यूल) की खुली आग और पारंपरिक चूल्‍हों में खाना पकाने से घर के भीतर होने वाला वायु प्रदूषण दुनिया में, हृदय और फेफड़ों की बीमारी और सांस के संक्रमण के बाद मृत्‍यु का चौथा सबसे बड़ा कारण है।

लगभग 290 करोड़ लोग, जिनमें से ज्‍़यादातर महिलाएँ हैं, अभी भी गंदगी, धुआँ और कालिख- पैदा करने वाले चूल्‍हों और ठोस जलावन से खाना पकाती हें। हालत यह है कि इतने ज्‍़यादा लोग इन खतरनाक उपकरणों का इस्‍तेमाल कर रहे हैं जो भारत और चीन की कुल आबादी से भी ज्‍़यादा हैं।   

इसे बदलने की जरूरत है। और बदलाव हो रहा है जैसा कि मैंने पिछले सप्‍ताह में एक्‍रा, घाना में संपन्‍न क्‍लीन कुकिंग फोरम 2015 की कई बातचीतों को सुना। घाना के पेट्रोलियम मंत्री और महिला व विकास उपमंत्री की बात सुनकर, मुझे अहसास हुआ कि सर्वाधिक जरूरतमंद परिवारों को स्‍वच्‍छ चूल्‍हे व स्‍वच्‍छ ईंधन उपलब्‍ध कराने की गहरी इच्‍छा निश्चित रूप से यहाँ मौजूद है। लेकिन इच्‍छाओं को सच्‍चाई में बदलना एक चुनौती है। यह बात न केवल घाना में बल्कि दुनिया के कई हिस्‍सों के लिए भी सही है।

बाद में मैंने इस बारे में काफी सोचा खास तौर पर जब हमने पेरिस में होने वाली जलवायु परिवर्तन कॉन्‍फ्रेंस (सीओपी21) पर ध्‍यान दिया जहाँ दुनिया के नेता जलवायु परिवर्तन के दुष्‍प्रभाव कम करने के वैश्विक समझौते पर सहमति बनाने के लिए इकट्ठा होंगे। उस लक्ष्‍य तक पहुंचने की एक महत्‍वपूर्ण कुंजी ऊर्जा के स्‍वच्‍छ स्रोतों को अपनाना भी है। इस लिहाज से, संयुक्‍त राष्‍ट्र संघ का सस्‍टेनेबल एनर्जी गोल (एसडीजी7) का एक मकसद - किफायती, भरोसेमंद, वहनीय (सस्‍टेनेब‌िल) और आधुनिक ऊर्जा तक सभी की पहुंच सुनिश्‍च‌ित करना - यह भी है कि ऐसे 290 करोड़ लोगों तक खाना पकाने के स्‍वच्‍छ समाधान पहुंचाएँ जाएँ, जो आज उनके पास नहीं हैं।  

In India, the great — yet unexplored — potential of inland water transportation

Shivika Singh's picture
Most of us attendees were novices in the area of inland water transportation in India and were curious to know what Arnab Bandyopadhay, Senior Transport Engineer at the World Bank’s India country office would say.

 
Indian waterways
Indian waterways. Photo credit: World Bank


Webinar Jan. 10: Urbanization Along the Waterfront

Parul Agarwala's picture

Riverfront as cultural center, IndiaHistorically, cities and civilizations have flourished along water bodies, which not only served as important transportation corridors to spur economic activity and trade, but also as prominent public spaces for religious and cultural interaction. Today, while a large number of cities have turned away from this important natural resource, many have reclaimed and transformed their waterfronts into thriving economic engines and nodes of social activity. Can cities redefine their relationship with water while managing challenges of rapid urbanization?

The World Bank’s South Asia Sustainable Development Unit, in collaboration with East Asia Pacific Sustainable Development Unit, is organizing a webinar on waterfront development to discuss different dimensions of waterfront initiatives and tools for a sustainable regenerative economic environment.

From Bangladesh to the World: How Knowledge Sharing has Changed Resettlement Training

Fabio Pittaluga's picture

I admit when I started the whole idea of setting up a course on resettlement at a local Bangladeshi university I thought it was going to be a long shot in the dark. I had a gigantic portfolio to look after in terms of safeguards support, and that left little time to do anything else. I also it would be difficult to show results quickly and make a convincing argument that this was worth the effort. But stubbornness at times is a key ingredient to achievement, i.e. persistence and resilience.

The course (now known as MLARR – Management of Land Acquisition, Resettlement and Rehabilitation) started out as an effort to train of a cadre of professionals to better manage the social risks associated with land acquisition and resettlement in Bangladesh. Given the population density and land scarcity, resettlement in Bangladesh continues to be a huge challenge for its development, as virtually all infrastructure requires moving people. Supported by AusAID and DFID, The first course was designed and delivered in 2009. That was the beginning, and what I’d like to focus is how far we’ve come from that first shot in the dark:

China's Accountability and India's Voice

Yongmei Zhou's picture

As a Chinese working on public sector governance and living in India, I'm often asked to compare the two governing systems, the largest democracy in the world and the largest non-democracy in the world. The gap in political and civil participation between the two countries is well known.

India's civil society and media are much more dynamic and vocal. I particularly admire the impact of the Center for Science and Environment on environmental policy, Pratham on education, the Naz Foundation on gay and lesbian rights, and MKSS on Rights to Information. I’m not aware of equally impactful counterparts in China but would be happy to hear about those you have come across. Certainly China can benefit from moving towards a more open society, where minority voices are heard and rights protected, and where abuse of official power and natural resource is restrained.

But when it comes to building infrastructure and reducing poverty, China is doing much better. Why? We often hear "Yes, but China is an authoritarian regime." -- as if authoritarian regimes automatically are more capable of development. Yes an authoritarian regime can be more efficient in making policies -- good or bad -- because the process of consultation and public deliberation can be truncated. But which theory predicts that democracies are less capable of building good infrastructure quickly or taking care of the poor?

Should South Asia Emulate the East Asian Tigers?

Joe Qián's picture

When thinking about development, I always look for opportunities for cross learning between regions. Having lived in and traveled extensively in East Asia and having worked in the South Asia Region for over a year, I often compare and think about prospects between the two regions. One question in particular is whether South Asia should aim to emulate East Asia’s manufacturing and export driven development model. Japan began using this model starting in the 1950’s and most East Asian countries particularly, South Korea, Malaysia, Taiwan, and most recently China have used manufacturing as a catalyst for growth.

According to the World Development Indicators, manufacturing accounted for over 30% of GDP in East Asia and Pacific while it is around 15% in South Asia. Bangladesh’s ready-made garment (RMG’s) industry is one example of manufacturing success as it has proven to be exceptionally competitive in the global market. However, holistically, I found that South Asia has distinctive characteristics and quickly moving towards an East Asian export-led model may not be most effective.

Do Cities Matter?

Ejaz Ghani's picture

It is a paradox that India which is among the most densely populated countries in the world, is also among the least urbanized. The figure below compares urbanization rates with income for more than 100 countries. It shows that an increase in urbanization rate is positively associated with real per capita income. This is the iron law of development—i.e., growth is associated with the reallocation of labor and capital away from traditional (rural) sectors to modern (urban) sectors. Spatial transformations that give rise to urbanization accelerate growth because households and firms benefit from scale economies, mobility, and specialization. Increased urbanization contributes to growth, job creation and poverty reduction. This can indeed become a virtuous circle.

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