Textile sector and clothing industry in Asia


The textile industry is one of the oldest industries in the world. However, it remains today totally globalized. Despite the abolition of quotas, some low-income countries have succeeded in developing their textile industry as China did. Asia accounts for 70% of the world exports of textiles and clothing in 2017(out of a total of 500 billion dollars), while Europe has only 12%. This figure is surprising but it is the truth!

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With the increase in the number of supermarkets, specialized channels and new technologies, industrial relocations to countries with low labor costs have been booming. The Asian countries have been greatly affected by this revolution. In the 1960s, with the emergence of new clothing production factory in Asia, the textile industry changed the most. Previously, the main exporters were in Asia: Hong Kong ranked third with 7.4% of world exports; China ranked fourth with 6.5%, Taiwan sixth with 5.7%; And the Republic of Korea in seventh place with 5.6%. Burma also has a place in this industry (see here). These Asian countries represent a large part of the global manufacture of Textile.

Today, automation in Asia is omnipresent in this sector and attracts a large part of the demand for machinery and equipment, as well as electronic components.


The Chinese textile and clothing industry has a major advantage, its complete industrial chain. It makes China the world’s largest exporter of clothing. But this trend is beginning to change more and more because of low labor costs. Indeed, South East Asia has undergone major changes in recent years. It has been observed that the manufacture of Chinese clothing tends to relocate to South East Asia. In response to these changes, several analysts stress the urgency for the Chinese clothing and textile industry to undertake industrial restructuring and modernization, increase the number of value-added products and create their own clothing brands.


Cambodia and Bangladesh are major players in the textile industry in China.

Indeed, Bangladesh would be the world’s second-largest textile power, but many wonder if this will last. The textile sector enjoys a privileged status in this country, which is still little open to international trade. Despite its many advantages, however, it is hampered by energy shortages, the poor quality of logistical infrastructure and the unstable political situation. The textile sector still represents 83% of Bangladesh’s exports. The textile sector is thus the industrial lung of Bangladesh but also its Achilles heel; Any change in supply and demand can have a significant impact on the country’s economy. Furthermore, many dramatic event such as the colapse of an all factory in Bengladesh while it was producing for H&M, involving hundreds of dead, stressed the human rights and labor conditions of the textile sector in this country.

In Cambodia, you will find that many protesters are challenging their low wages and working conditions. Textile is a key sector for the Cambodian economy. 90% of their exports are based on textiles and footwear. A large third share for the US and almost as much for Europe. But in order to turn its textile industry, Cambodia must import almost all the fabric and threads from China. The textile industry employs 650,000 workers, 400,000 of whom work indirectly for major international brands. Faced with rising wage demands, the government has promised to raise the minimum wage by $ 80 to $ 95 per month next April.

Thailand has higher wage than other south east countries but extremely qualified workers, mostly in the Chiang Mai region where most of the traditional Lanna outfits have been locally produced for hundreds of years. The cost is higher than Vietnam and Bengladesh but the quality as well as working conditions are much better. More professional, the Apparel factory in Thailand are also usually able to produce small quantity and have a small Minimum Order Quantity than country such as China.

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