"Export-oriented apparel production—long a key industry in South Asia—displays characteristics of good jobs for development. With relatively low skill requirements, apparel manufacturing presents the poor with job opportunities. It also has a unique ability to attract female workers, with women's share of total apparel employment being much higher than women's share of the national labor force in nearly every country in the region. Women employed in the formal sector tend to have fewer children, reducing population growth, and several studies have found that women are more likely to dedicate their income to the health and education of children."
These remarks by Annette Dixon, World Bank Vice-President for the South Asia Region, set the tone for the launch of Stitches to Riches: Apparel employment, trade and economic development in South Asia on March 24, 2015 at the World Bank in Washington, DC. The book, which is part of the Directions in Development series, explores the potential of the apparel sector to create good jobs for development in the South Asia Region – specifically Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and India – in the context of rising wages in China.
The co-authors of the book include Gladys Lopez-Acevedo, Lead Economist in the World Bank's Office of the Chief Economist for the South Asia Region; Raymond Robertson, Helen and Roy Ryu Chair in Economics and Government in the Department of International Affairs at the Bush School of Government and Public Service; Ritika D'Souza, analyst at the World Bank's Office of the Chief Economist for the South Asia region; Atisha Kumar of JustJobs Network, New Delhi; Stacey Frederick at Duke University's Center on Globalization, Governance & Competitiveness; and Yevgeniya Savchenko, economist in the World Bank's Poverty and Equity Practice in the Latin America and the Caribbean Region.
The book emphasizes that South Asia, which is in the midst of a demographic transition, is well suited to leverage the labor-intensive apparel manufacturing sector. "As one of the most prominent labor-intensive industries in developing countries, apparel manufacturing is a prime contender to create good jobs for development. With around 4.7 million workers in the formal sector and another estimated 20.3 million informally employed (combined with textiles), apparel already constitutes close to 40 percent of manufacturing employment. And given that much of apparel production continues to be labor-intensive, the potential to create more and better jobs is immense. There is a huge window of opportunity now for South Asia, given that China, the dominant producer for the last ten years, has started to cede some ground due to higher wages." However, to do so, South Asian countries will have to "offer a wide range of quality products to buyers rapidly and reliably—not just offer low costs."