Productivity improvements in LIC manufacturing sectors

Project overview

Project lead: Atonu Rabbani, Innovations for Poverty Action

Start date: 1 June 2014

End date: 30 June 2017

Research Council project page

Manufacturing sectors in developing countries show a far greater dispersion in firm productivity and management practices than counterparts in high-income countries. Sustained increases in wages and employment creation depend on increases in productivity.

This project aimed to deepen understanding of the process of productivity improvement in manufacturing firms in low-income countries (LICs), and gain insights as to why productivity and innovation are lagging behind.

The research focused on the Bangladeshi Ready-made garment (RMG) sector, the largest source of urban employment in Bangladesh. The effects of a training programme developed and offered by Solutions for Management International (S4Mi), a not-for-profit consulting firm established as a part of DFID’s Responsible and Accountable Garment Sector (RAGS) programme, was studied.

S4Mi and the participating factories selected a single pilot production line on which to focus and a random selection of pilot lines will provide a valid comparison group prior to the factory-wide rollout. The team also combined extremely detailed productivity analysis with innovative survey and interview data. The survey and interview data provided a unique window onto the internal processes of change that accompany the transition.


Follow-on Grant

Rabbani has been awarded a follow-on grant from ESRC to build on lessons learned from the DEGRP study until March 2021. This will aim to provide further insights to go towards developing a training model to better prepare women for leadership positions and supervisory roles in the garment sector in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

The overwhelming majority of the four million workers in the Bangladeshi garment sector are female, but managers at all levels are almost exclusively male. Here, the confidence and aspiration gap between women and men is large, so this research seeks to increase understanding about the challenges and barriers to women’s promotion. Delivering more effective training over a longer period is expected to enhance female confidence and performance, building equity and efficiency in the industry.