The UN body’s report came after a series of disasters in the garment factories, including the Rana Plaza factory complex collapse that killed 1,135 people in one of the world’s worst industrial accidents.

Bangladesh, the world’s second—largest garment exporter, must introduce sweeping reforms in its apparel industry to improve living standards and maintain its economic momentum, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) said today.

The UN body’s report came after a series of disasters, including the collapse of the poorly maintained Rana Plaza factory complex in April that killed 1,135 people in one of the world’s worst industrial accidents.

The ILO report said safer working conditions and fairer wages are vital.

“Unless a comprehensive set of labour market and social policies are introduced, Bangladesh will be unable to maintain its economic momentum and improve living standards in a sustainable way,” the report said.

The garment sector is key to Bangladesh’s economy and accounts for nearly 5 per cent of global apparel exports. This makes Bangladesh one of the leading ready—made garments exporter, second only to China.

Bangladesh is the world’s second—largest garment exporter with over 4,500 factories which account for nearly 80 per cent of the country’s USD 27—billion annual exports paying a worker the minimum wage of USD 38 a month.

The ILO report said that Bangladeshi garment workers earn less than their colleagues in Cambodia, Vietnam, India or Pakistan, and that the minimum wage has been adjusted there only three times in almost 30 years, the BBC reported.

The reforms would be the best investment Bangladesh could make because they would help to safeguard exports and support job creation, the ILO said.

Earlier this month, Bangladesh’s wage board proposed raising the minimum salary for garment industry workers by 77 per cent to 5,300 takas (USD 68.42) a month.

However, the proposed increase was less than what unions had demanded leading to various strikes in recent weeks by garment workers demanding higher wages and safer working conditions.