Twenty-three percent of readymade garment (RMG) workers studied up to the primary level while only 0.5% received technical education, a survey said.
It found that 4.3% of RMG workers have no formal education, 35.1% completed junior schooling, and 13.1% finished high school.
Titled "A Survey Report on the Garment Workers of Bangladesh 2020", the survey findings were published at a programme on Saturday. The Asian Centre for Development conducted the survey on 1,119 workers in 160 factories.
The survey found that around one-fifth of workers completed secondary or higher secondary education or its equivalent. Moreover, 4% of workers either received madrasa or technical education or completed bachelor's degree or its equivalent.
Experts attending the programme stressed workers' skill development.
Otherwise, surviving the fourth industrial revolution in the RMG sector would not be possible, they said.
Dr AK Enamul Huq, professor in the department of economics at East West University, presented the keynote.
Ahsan H Mansur, executive director of Policy Research Institute, said the RMG sector has a lack of technical workers.
He said the government and factory owners would have to work together to address this problem.
Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) Vice-President Arshad Jamal Dipu said the number of educated workers in the RMG industry is inadequate.
He said skilled manpower is needed for modernising industries.
"We have to focus on lean manufacturing. The government has to provide policy support for this. Once that happens, we will make good products and will get better prices. Also, we have to pressurise buyers to get fair prices," he explained.
KM Abdus Salam, secretary to the labour ministry, said the government had taken up various programmes to develop workers' skillset and was working to create skilled and semiskilled industrial workers.
He said the government had taken up initiatives to create manpower for industrial production and management in a technically advanced way.
Professor Mustafizur Rahman, distinguished fellow at the Centre for Policy Dialogue, said workers' wages were not increasing in line with the rise in the standard of living.
He said wages were not rising at the same rate as commodity prices.
BGMEA President Rubana Huq said they had taken steps to ensure factory compliance.
"We do our job but buyers do not raise product prices," she said.
Head of the European Union (EU) delegation to Bangladesh Rensje Teerink said building environment-friendly factories should be emphasised.
She said she had visited the Korean export processing zone (EPZ) in Bangladesh, adding that the EPZ model should be followed.
Rensje also said workers' skills need to be developed.
The survey said 65% of the 40 lakh apparel workers are females and many workers migrated from rural areas of almost all districts. The top 10 districts are Mymensingh, Rangpur, Cumilla, Barishal, Sirajganj, Dinajpur, Jamalpur, Chattogram, Gaibandha, and Bogura, and workers from these places comprise nearly 45% of the total RMG workforce.
Nearly 89% of workers migrated from other districts and the rest are locals.
According to the survey, about 57% of workers do not have any other income source while 43% reported that they have income from agricultural activities, including poultry, livestock, and fisheries. Also, 5% have income from businesses.
Moreover, 65% of workers have their spouses working in the RMG industry.