The Covid-19 pandemic has triggered huge job losses, especially for women, in the ready-made garment (RMG) sector in Bangladesh exposing the sector’s sensitivities by destabilising global supply chains and leading to a decline in demand, according to the World Trade Organization (WTO). “Orders received by Bangladesh’s RMG factories declined by 45.8 per cent over the first quarter of 2020, with an 81 per cent contraction experienced in April alone,” said an information note of the WTO secretariat in Geneva. Titled as ‘The effects of COVID-19 on Bangladesh’s ready-made garment sector’, a box item in the information note pointed out that the demand contraction and order cancellation led to a marked effect on employment. “Recent surveys indicate that more than a million garment workers in Bangladesh have already been dismissed or furloughed due to future order cancellations and customer refusals to pay for current orders,” it added. The information note, titled as ‘The economic impact of Covid-19 on women in vulnerable sectors and economies’, released on Tuesday. “The global garment and textile industry, which employs a large number of women, has been heavily impacted by a large number of order cancellations and the temporary closure of retail shops resulting in many factory shutdowns in countries such as Bangladesh, Cambodia and Viet Nam,” it added. It pointed out that as a large amount of spending on clothing is driven by seasonal factors, many winter and spring sales were permanently lost during the lockdown. “The apparel and accessory store revenue losses have translated into job losses and financial hardship for people, many of whom are women, across the global supply chain, from those picking fibres and making textiles to those selling the finished fashion product, whether in physical shops or online,” it explained. Giving especial focus on the RMG sector in Bangladesh, the note mentioned that the annual export revenue generated by the sector encompassed 84 per cent of the country’s aggregate export value for 2019. “In addition, the sector functions as a significant employer of women, with female employees representing 80 per cent of the 4.0 million employed in RMG production,” it added. “However, women tend to occupy the lower rungs of the production chain, with limited representation in managerial roles,” it added. The WTO report, quoting a number of studies, added that women account for four out of every five production line workers, but just one out of every 20 supervisors. “The significant representation of female employees in the RMG sector, coupled with the fact that they tend to be employed at the lower end of the production chain, exposes them to a higher degree of job risk relative to other social groups,” it observed.