If you have ever purchased clothing in H&M, GAP, Wal-mart or Primark, it is not hard to find something in your wardrobe which was made in Bangladesh. Bangladesh, the world second largest garment exporter,is supplying clothes for international brand chain stores, where the shops are popular for majority people to buy their clothes. The reason why it is common to consume in chain stores is because chain stores always provide great accessibility with reasonable(or even cheap) price which favored consumers.
Looking at the word ‘made in Bangladesh’ on the clothing tag, how much do you know about the country? Garment export is the largest industrial sector in Bangladesh, due to its favorable condition(cheap labor, low taxes), attracts foreign investors, mainly from the United Stated and Europe. In 2013-14 fiscal year, the export set a new record, reached over 30 billion U.S. dollar(Naim, 2014). However, there are about 4 million garment factory workers(Tauscher, 2014)suffering from poor working condition in the industry.
Workers are underpaid and suffer from inhumane treatment in Bangladesh. They have to work 10-14 hours each day and 6 days per week to earn around £23 a month. (HILLS, 2012) Clean drinking water is not provided for workers and they are even restricted to go to toilet during working time.(Rozario and Uttom, 2014)Low income contributes to the high rate of undernourishment because workers cannot afford nutritious food. Fish and meat become luxuries to them.
What’s more, many of the buildings are not built for factory-use. There is no fire exit in some of the factories. Hence the working environment is unsafe and cause to horrible tragedies. On 24 April, 2013,a factory building in Bangladesh capital city collapsed, due to unauthorized reconstruction of the factory building and overloading of heavy machines. More than one thousand people hurt and two hundred fifty people died in the injury.
Who put the workers’ lives in risk? The employers solely keep eyes on profits. Profit seems to be the only driving force of employers. They never take note on any safety regulation of the garment industry. The more products the workers manufacture, the more profits the employers gain. The government is also insufficient to(or maybe unwilling) to draw up well-knit regulatory conditions(for example, supervise the fire service installations and equipment.) (William,2004) to protect workers’ right is because it may in fact hinder the enormous clothing export income of the government.Until the tragedy happened, international labor groups pushed European and American buyers to invest fire safety checks for the factories in order to protect the safety of the workers.(Rozario and Uttom, 2014)Workers may at least survive.
To conclude, ‘Made in Bangladesh’ entails the poor stories and cruel lives of Bangladeshi workers. Employers keep making great profits because of the exploitation of the garment workers while workers are churning out low-priced products in deadly factories. After knowing the stories behind, when you see a clothing tag which has ‘Made in Bangladesh’ printed on it, will you still fascinate by the cheap price?
BY: Hilary Chan
CNN, (2013).Trade rules and cheap Bangladeshi clothes. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RKXdLIr4GtE [Accessed 5 Nov. 2014].
HILLS, S. (2012). Bangladesh asked to raise its $36-a-month minimum wage… by clothes retail giant H&M. [online] Mail Online. Available at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2199208/Bangladesh-asked-raise-36-month-minimum-wage–clothes-retail-giant-H-M.html [Accessed 28 Oct. 2014].
Naim, U. (2014). Bangladesh’s 2013-14 fiscal exports hit all-time yearly high. [online] Shanghai Daily.com. Available at: http://www.shanghaidaily.com/article/article_xinhua.aspx?id=229001 [Accessed 10 Nov. 2014].
Rozario, R. and Uttom, S. (2014). Bangladeshi garment workers grapple with hunger, malnutrition. [online] UCANEWS.com. Available at: http://www.ucanews.com/news/bangladeshi-garment-workers-grapple-with-hunger-malnutrition/72377 [Accessed 15 Nov. 2014].
Tauscher, E. (2014). Improving garment factory conditions helps workers and retailers. [online] the Washington Post. Available at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/improving-garment-factory-conditions-helps-workers-and-retailers/2014/10/29/5f14aeb6-5f78-11e4-827b-2d813561bdfd_story.html [Accessed 30 Oct. 2014].
William I. Robinson (2004) ‘Globalization as Epochal Change in World Capitalism’, A Theory of Global Capitalism: Production, Class and State in a Transnational World, Johns Hopkins), pp. 1 – 32.