Bangladesh, for one, has grown into the world’s second-largest clothing exporter because of its low costs, while Vietnam has become a favorite alternative to China for producing sneakers and textiles.

Perhaps the most obvious contenders to fill the opening are emerging export economies in Asia, namely India, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Indonesia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam. But only Bangladesh, Cambodia, and Vietnam have seen significant growth in their global share of labor-intensive exports in the past two decades.

Bangladesh and Vietnam have seen the most rapid growth,” Hanson says. “If you had to say who’s the next China, it’s them. The problem is they’re just not nearly big enough to fully take overproduction in the way that China did from East Asia in the 1990s.” Their combined populations total about 260 million—less than 20% of China’s 1.4 billion—and when factoring in economic productivity, they shrink beside China even further. With Cambodia, they make up less than 8% of labor-intensive exports globally, according to Hanson’s analysis.

The case isn’t any more compelling for candidates in Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East, such as Romania, Poland, Morocco, Tunisia, and Turkey. The largest exporter of the group, Turkey, hasn’t notably increased its share of labor-intensive exports for years.


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