Sri Lanka

Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka │ ශ්‍රී ලංකා ප්‍රජාතාන්ත්‍රික සමාජවාදී ජනරජය │ இலங்கை சனநாயக சோசலிசக் குடியரசு

The textile and garment industry is of overall economic importance to Sri Lanka. The industry accounted for nearly 47 per cent of exports in 2019 and provides employment for more than 350,000 workers in the formal sector and about twice that number in the informal sector. This represents about 33 per cent of all manufacturing jobs. The majority of employees are women.

In May 2017, after a seven-year hiatus, the European Union's (EU) Generalised Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+) status was reactivated for Sri Lanka. Positive impetus is already evident: in 2018, the country increased its total exports of textiles and garments by nearly 4.8 per cent. Many domestic textile producers are switching to producing high-quality garments to maintain their competitiveness, rather than focusing on mass production. Manufacturing is now focusing on fewer product categories, such as underwear or sportswear. The ambitious goal is to increase the export revenues of the apparel industry to US$8 billion by 2025, which requires an annual growth rate of 6 per cent.

Country Profile


21,413,000 (2020)

Gross Domestic Product

constant USD

4,011 (2019)

Human Development Index Ranking

HDI (out of 189 countries)

72 (2019)


Garment/Textile Workers

Number of workers in the garment/textile sector


Women Workers in the Garment/Textile Industry

Percentage of women workers employed in the garment/textile industry


Number of Garment/Textile Factories

Number of factories in the garment/textile industry

300 (2020)

Garment/Textile Industry Exports

(USD$ billion)

5.699 (2019)

Garment/Textile Industry Size

Percentage of total exports

46.9 (2019)

Key Garment/Textile Export Markets

Top five countries ($USD value exported and subsequent percentage)

Country Percentage of Exports
United States 41.8%
United Kingdom 11.6%
Italy 9.9%
Germany 5.1%
Belgium 4.3%

Government Entities

Government agencies actively involved in the garment/textile industry

Board of Investment Sri Lanka
Ministry of Labour
Export Development Board of Sri Lanka

Worker Organizations

Trade unions, Union federations, and other worker organizations

Free Trade Zone and General Services Employees Union

Textile, Garment and Clothing Workers Union

Ceylon Mercantile Industrial and General Workers Union

Commercial and Industrial Workers Union

Employer/Industry Associations and Chambers of Commerce

Employers and industry related associations, private sectors associations and chambers of commerce

Employers Federation of Ceylon
Joint Apparel Association Forum of Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka Apparel Exporters Association (constituent of JAAF)
Ceylon Chamber of Commerce

Development Agencies/ International Organizations

National and international development organizations working within the garment/textile industry

International Finance Corporation (IFC)

International Labour Organization (ILO)

GIZ Fabric

Civil Society Organizations/ Non-governmental Organizations

Organizations working within the garment/textile industry

Da-Bindu Collective

Stand-Up Movement Sri Lanka

Women’s Centre

Revolutionary Existence for Human Development

Solidarity Center

Asia Floor Wage Alliance


Social & Labour

Social and labour law, policy, and initiatives


Gender-related law, policy, and initiatives

14.8% of the female workforce in Sri Lanka are employed in the garment sector, compared to 3.1% male. 71% of the workers in the garment sector are women, and 29% are men. The median gender pay gap in the garment sector is 25.5%. ,


Sources of data provided

  1. Population:
  2. GDP Per Capita:
  3. HDI:
  4. Garment / Textile Workers: Labour force statistics (LFS) ILOSTAT Employment by sex and economic activity – ISIC level 2 (thousands) – Annual. Employment ISIC codes 13-15.
  5. Women Workers in the Garment /Textile Industry: Labour force statistics (LFS) ILOSTAT Employment by sex and economic activity – ISIC level 2 (thousands) – Annual. Employment ISIC codes 13-15. Female / Total
  6. Number of Garment / Textile Factories Export from Joint Apparel Association Forum of Sri Lanka email communication 9 June 2021 - approximate:  "Sri Lanka has around 300 individual manufacturing plants".
  7. Garment / Textile Industry Central Bank of Sri Lanka Annual Report 2019 (Colombo, 2020) (Includes Textile, Garments, Leather, Travel Goods and Footwear)
  8. Garment / Textile Industry Size Central Bank of Sri Lanka Annual Report 2019 (Colombo, 2020) (Includes Textile, Garments, Leather, Travel Goods and Footwear) Percentage of industrial exports. 

  9. Key Garment / Textile Export Market,15912&sCS_ChosenLang=en  2019 Merchandise trade matrix – exports of individual economies in thousands United States dollars, annual (SITC codes 26, 65, 84, 85): Total of Garment (Textiles and Apparel) and Footwear categories; Percentage of Garment and Footwear categories per country divided by total Garment and Footwear categories, Total countries.
  10. Environment These resources are thematic related resources on a rotating roster.
  11. Social & Labour - These resources are thematic related resources on a rotating roster.
  12. Gender ILO calculation based on labour force survey in Sri Lanka 2018 (LFS) ILOSTAT Employment by sex and economic activity – ISIC level 2 (thousands) – Annual. Employment ISIC codes 13-15.

News on Sri Lanka

Unions in Sri Lanka sign landmark agreement in global apparel supply chain

"Three of IndustriALL’s affiliates in Sri Lanka, The Free Trade Zone & General Services Employees Union, Sri Lanka Nidahas Sewaka Sangamaya, and the National Union of Metal and Migrant workers in Sri ...

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Dabindu holds first stakeholder meeting of the year

"Yesterday, 7 January 2022, Dabindu held its first stakeholder meeting of the year in Vavuniya and Kilinochchi with the participation of representatives from the Labor Department, Medical Health Offic ...

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New union-employer agreement in Sri Lanka addresses key worker rights issues

"Today, garment worker unions in Sri Lanka have signed a ground-breaking agreement with employer association Joint Apparel Association Forum (JAAF) in which both parties reached an understanding about ...

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Resources on Sri Lanka

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Business Resilience Guides: Guides for garment factories to build resilience during and after COVID-19

The ILO provides a series of six action-oriented guides for garment factories in Asia to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic and to build business resilience. This fact sheet provides an introduction to the series.


Arron Goldman  | August 08, 2021

What next for Asian garment production after COVID-19? The perspectives of industry stakeholders


GIZ Admin  | May 07, 2021

Recommendations for garment manufacturers on how to address the COVID-19 pandemic

This report sheds light on how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting Asian garment manufacturers, while outlining key recommendations for factories to overcome the crisis


GIZ Admin  | May 07, 2021

Securing the competitiveness of Asia’s garment sector: A framework for enhancing factory-level productivity

ILO Asia-Pacific Working Paper Series This paper establishes the need for productivity interventions in the Asian ready-made garment sector. It argues the rationale for addressing factory productivity as part of a wider strategy including an integrated approach to securing the...


GIZ Admin  | May 12, 2021