Garment Workers in Bangladesh Get 77 Percent Raise, Still Earn Only $66 a Month

DHAKA, Bangladesh -- DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — A government-appointed panel in Bangladesh voted Monday to raise the minimum wage for millions of garment workers to about $66 a month — still the lowest in the world and well below what workers have been seeking.

The harsh and often unsafe working conditions in Bangladesh's garment industry drew global attention after the collapse of an eight-story factory building killed more than 1,100 people in April. In another horrific case, a fire last November killed 112 workers.

Garment workers have been demanding 8,114 takas ($100) instead of the current monthly minimum wage of 3,000 takas ($38), which is the lowest in the world. On Monday, the wage board raised the minimum wage by about 77 percent, to 5,300 takas ($66.25).

According to local research groups and rights activist Kalpona Akter, Bangladesh still has the lowest minimum wage in the world, even if the raise goes into effect. The Ministry of Labor still must approve the raise.

Akter is the executive director of the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity, an independent group campaigning for workers' rights in the garment sector.

Atiqul Islam, president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, said his group had not accepted the proposal but was looking into it.

Bangladesh is the world's second-largest garment manufacturing country after China.

Factory owners say it is difficult for them to significantly raise the minimum wage because global brands are unwilling to pay higher prices amid stiff competition and a protracted economic crisis in the West.

Bangladesh earns $20 billion a year from garment exports, mainly to the United States and Europe. The sector employs about 4 million workers, mostly women.

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