Bangladesh is one of the poorest and most highly and densely populated countries in the world. Its population is estimated at slightly more than 150 million. The majority are Muslims, but there is also a small percentage of Hindus, Buddhists and Christians.
After a period of rebellion and strife, Bangladesh gained independence in 1971. It had previously been a British Colony that had been a part of India called Bengal since the 1700s and then a part of Pakistan since 1947. What followed in the 1970s was a period of political turmoil and a string of military coups. However, with the election in 1979, a civil government was established and the political situation stabilized somewhat. Nevertheless, Bangladesh is still politically unstable and it struggles with both corruption and financial difficulties.
Bangladesh is primarily situated in a river delta and because of that there are problems every year with major floods which, above all, affect the poorest people in the country.
Many people in Bangladesh subsist on farming but the country also has developed industry in the areas of ready-to-wear clothing, jute and food. The ready-to-wear clothing industry is the sector that employs the most people and the majority of the country's textile factories are located in and around the capital city, Dhaka.
This sector started to gain momentum during the first half of the 1980s and its growth and development has, in many ways, helped transform the Bangladeshi society primarily by providing jobs and a source of income for women. Women's status in society has gradually improved in conjunction with an increase in their financial resources.
At present, approximately 4 million people are employed in the ready-to-wear clothing industry and nearly 80 % of them are women. It is estimated that the ready-to-wear industry has indirectly contributed to reducing poverty by almost 50 % in the Bangladeshi population. This sector is currently responsible for approximately 80 % of the country's export income.
With help and assistance from foreign customers, it is now hoped that the ready-to-wear industry will be able to make progress by having safer working conditions and reasonable wage levels. Several international initiatives are already underway and an increase in the minimum wage level is expected to be implemented soon.