Desk Report : Readymade garment entrepreneurs on Monday said that shortage of skilled workforce was a big challenge to achieve the target of export earnings of US$ 50 billion from the sector by 2021.
The RMG sector currently suffers from acute shortage of skilled workers resulting in dependence on skilled expatriate workers for efficient operation of the factories, they said at a roundtable discussion on ‘$50 billion export target and the role of Centre of Excellence for Bangladesh Apparel Industry (CEBAI)’ held at a hotel in Dhaka.
Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, International Labour Organisation and CEBAI jointly organised the programme.
Export earnings from RMG sector were US$ 28 billion in the last fiscal year and the BGMEA has set a target of earnings US$ 50 billion in 2021.
Around 20,000 foreigners, mainly from Sri Lanka, India and Pakistan, are now working in the sector taking the advantage of shortage of skilled workers, they added.
Viyellatex Group chairman and chief executive officer KM Rezaul Hasanat David said that lack of skilled workers was a major challenge for RMG entrepreneurs as it adversely affects quality of products and productivity of a factory.
The sector lacks at least 25 per cent of total skilled workforce at all levels including workers, supervisors and mid-management, he said.
He said that the entrepreneurs had to pay at least US$ 5 billion to foreign workers employed to meet the shortage.
BGMEA senior vice-president Faruque Hassan said that technological upgradation, investment in modernization of factories and uninterrupted supply of gas and electricity were needed to meet the target of export earnings.
The apparel sector will have to find out the ways to achieve the target of export earnings and CEBAI can play an important role in this regard, he said.
Entrepreneurs will have to move to produce high-end products and create a brand value of Bangladeshi items in global market, he said.
Diversification of products is also another issue which needs to be addressed as around 79 per cent of Bangladesh’s export items are concentrated in five basic products—trouser, t-shirt, sweater, shirts, and jackets, he added.
Former BGMEA president Md Atiqul Islam moderated the discussion.
BGMEA in 2014 launched CEBAI to improve productivity in the sector through research and development.