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Slow and steady wins the race : how the garment industry leads industrialization in low-income countries

  • Fukunishi, Takahiro
  • Yamagata, Tatsufumi

This paper investigates how the garment industry escapes this vicious cycle and argues for the validity of labor-intensive industry as a starting point for full-fledged industrialization, even though it might at first seem to be a digression from the path to an innovation-led economy. By examining original firm-level data on garment-producing firms collected in 2002 and 2008 in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Kenya and Madagascar, the following conclusions are drawn: (1) low wages, though still sufficient for poverty reduction, are the main source of competitiveness in low-income countries; (2) after the successful initiation of industrialization causes wages to begin to rise, there is still a possibility for productivity enhancement; and (3) skill bias in technological progress is not yet a major factor, implying that the garment industry is still a labor-intensive industry. In sum, labor-intensive industry should not be discounted as a part of the development strategy of low-income countries.

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Paper provided by Institute of Developing Economies, Japan External Trade Organization(JETRO) in its series IDE Discussion Papers with number 412.

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Date of creation: Apr 2013
Date of revision:
Publication status: Published in IDE Discussion Paper. No. 412. 2013.4
Handle: RePEc:jet:dpaper:dpaper412
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  1. Deardorff, A.V., 1998. "Fragmentation in Simple Trade Models," Working Papers 422, Research Seminar in International Economics, University of Michigan.
  2. Takahiro FUKUNISHI, 2009. "Has Low Productivity Constrained The Competitiveness Of African Firms? A Comparison Of Kenyan And Bangladeshi Garment Firms," The Developing Economies, Institute of Developing Economies, vol. 47(3), pages 307-339.
  3. Amjad (edited), Rashid, 1981. "The development labour intensive industry in ASEAN countries: an overview," MPRA Paper 38967, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  4. Lucia Foster & John Haltiwanger & Chad Syverson, 2005. "Reallocation, Firm Turnover, and Efficiency: Selection on Productivity or Profitability?," NBER Working Papers 11555, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Gregory Clark, 2007. "Introduction to A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World
    [A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World]
    ," Introductory Chapters, Princeton University Press.
  6. Hayami, Yujiro & Ruttan, Vernon W., 1969. "Factor Prices And Technical Change In Agricultural Development: The United States And Japan, 1880-1960," Staff Papers 14172, University of Minnesota, Department of Applied Economics.
  7. Gladys Lopez-Acevedo & Raymond Robertson, 2012. "Sewing Success? Employment, Wages, and Poverty following the End of the Multi-Fibre Arrangement," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 13137, September.
  8. Hornstein, Andreas & Krusell, Per & Violante, Giovanni L., 2005. "The Effects of Technical Change on Labor Market Inequalities," Handbook of Economic Growth, in: Philippe Aghion & Steven Durlauf (ed.), Handbook of Economic Growth, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 20, pages 1275-1370 Elsevier.
  9. Lawrence F. Katz & Kevin M. Murphy, 1991. "Changes in Relative Wages, 1963-1987: Supply and Demand Factors," NBER Working Papers 3927, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Margit Molnar & Przemyslaw Kowalski, 2008. "Economic impacts of the phase-out in 2005 of quantitative restrictions under the Agreement on textiles and Clothing," STUDIES IN TRADE AND INVESTMENT, in: Unveiling Protectionism: Regional Responses to Remaining Barriers in the Textiles and Clothing Trade, pages 49-83 pag United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).
  11. Ronald W. Jones, 1965. "The Structure of Simple General Equilibrium Models," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 73, pages 557.
  12. Yamagata, Tatsufumi, 2006. "The Garment Industry in Cambodia: Its Role in Poverty Reduction through Export-Oriented Development," IDE Discussion Papers 62, Institute of Developing Economies, Japan External Trade Organization(JETRO).
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