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Apparel market

Bangladesh´s textile minister said he will agree on a minimum wage for cloths industry

In Bangladesh´s case, major factories became overbooked and so subcontracted more work to smaller outfits. Such subcontracting, and the increasing role of middlemen, have made it easier for retailers to lose track of which factories are producing their goods—and, many critics say, to avoid taking responsibility for poor factory conditions.

Bangladesh has quickly become among the world´s largest exporters of clothing, and has suffered one of the worst industrial accidents ever.

"If wages rise quickly elsewhere, and producers all flee to the same place, you obviously can overwhelm an economy, and there seems to be a bit of that" in Bangladesh, says Robert Frank, an economics professor at Cornell University. "The influx of manufacturing there was so quick that there was very little time to adjust to it."

But with consumers so used to paying so little, retailers and apparel manufacturers are reluctant to raise prices and have become even more eager to find low-cost countries to produce their goods in, economists say.

So retailers and apparel producers are switching to lower-cost alternatives like India, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Bangladesh, where the entry-level wage for garment workers is shy of $40 a month.

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