The Bangladesh garment industry is the largest employer of women in the formal manufacturing sector. The owners have been described, alternatively, as risk-taking entrepreneurs of a modernizing economy and as oppressors of women in exploitative sweatshops. This article analyzes the literature to explore the social, political, and economic contexts of this class and how women's earnings affect household gender dynamics within a framework of exit and voice. It draws on interviews of these garment factory workers to explore how work has different meanings for workers of different classes and how these perceptions influence gender roles and practices within the household. The conditions of the 1971 war, in fact, created the proto-capitalists, and the post-1975 economic policies of the military regime enabled them to become capitalists. The work has different meanings for women of different classes and these perceptions influence gender roles and practices within the household. Women from various class backgrounds are employed because they can be molded into compliant workers. The multi-class character of the workforce combined with the threat of layoffs prevents solidarity and makes unionization difficult. Some single women feel empowered by their earnings. Most married women are unable to leverage their income into greater decision-making power. But the income is essential for household welfare, and women need these jobs. Policy recommendations involve national and international actors; they emphasize crèches (day care centers), savings, and severance pay at the garment factory level as well as the institution of global living wages and working standards by the International Labour Organization.


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pp. 34-45
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