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Sri Lanka could grow through apparel manufacturing

Staff writer ▼ | April 27, 2016
Sri Lanka has been successful in growing its apparel manufacturing industry, more can be done to realize its potential, according to a new World Bank report.
Sri Lanka
Stitches to Riches   Apparel Employment, Trade and Economic Development
The report, Stitches to Riches: Apparel Employment, Trade and Economic Development, is aimed at demystifying the global, South Asian, and Sri Lankan apparel markets, estimating the potential gains in exports and jobs (including for women), and identifying policies that can unleash Sri Lanka’s export and jobs potential compared with those of their closest competitors in the Southeast Asia including Vietnam, Cambodia, and Indonesia.

Clothing manufacturing has a lower barrier of entry than many industries and creates jobs that often pay better than alternatives such as agriculture.

In Sri Lanka, the average apparel worker earns more than $120 per month, on average, compared to $80 per month for those working in agriculture. Over 70% of apparel workers are women compared to less than 30% in other industries.

Accounting for $4.4 billion of its exports, Sri Lanka’s apparel sector outperforms other South Asian countries in terms of quality, lead time, reliability, along with social compliance and sustainability.

As China gradually scales back its apparel manufacturing, Sri Lanka stands to gain market share, but currently not as quickly as some Southeast Asian countries.

Comparisons reveal that its apparel prices are higher than competitors, but Sri Lanka produces more sophisticated products, though there is room for improvement on lead times and product range and availability.