The garment trade has been the focus in recent months due to its lack of worker safety standards. The fire that killed over 100 people and the recent collapse of a illegally built factory that killed over 700 is turning the focus on the millions of women and children working in the garment industry. The European Union is well aware of the issue surrounding these conditions with 60% of the clothes going to Europe its a billion dollar industry which comes with duty free access and low wages. Bangladesh garment exports rose 10% and makes up close to 80% of its exports and has totaled close to $20 Billion this year alone.
Nearly 30% of garment industry bosses are members of parliament and also account for about 10 percent of its lawmakers and at least 50 percent of the members of parliament have business ties to the garment industry. They have all built their wealth and empires over decades with one factory at a time with many wealthy textile tycoons still continuing to benefit from government policies to grow the industry into a global powerhouse.
The real question we all should ask is who is really responsible the owners? The Buyers? The Governement? The Consumer? Societies too often choose to distant themselves from the issues surrounding the garment industry because of the benefits to European and American economies. Consumers never take the time to think about the hazardous working conditions and low wages of women or children and what make clothes so cheap and affordable at store such as Wal-Mart,H&M, JC Penney, Gap Inc, Inditex, Levi’s, Marks & Spencer, Tesco, Target, Nike Inc, and Primark.
In workshops across South Asian countries of millions, the government discourages and sabotage labour activism in the name of protecting the country’s economic lifeline with torture, arrest and even murder. In 2012 high profile labour activist Aminul Islam, was murdered in reports its stated his body showed signs of torture, His killing is still under investigation, and no arrests have been made in the case. Activists who campaign for safer factories and better wages are often treated as enemies of the state. To date no factory owners has ever been prosecuted for the death of factory workers.
The garment industry of Bangladesh’s has made its economy flourish and competitive, putting Bangladesh in the so-called next biggest economy of the century ranking .In 1971 Bangladesh won its Independence and had since struggled with dependence on foreign aid, poverty, corruption, over population and political unrest. The Multi-Fibre Agreement (MFA) imposed quotas on developing nations’ textile and garment exports to rich nations expired in 2004 and with labour shortages, wage inflation and a shift to higher-value manufactured products have made China less attractive as a source for garments. With the end of the MFA agreement came along with it the get money fast ideology opening the door to a new class of garment moguls.
Through the use of politics and media western chains set its sights on Bangladesh because of its trade pacts, cheap labour and the quest for rock-bottom costs. Wages are one of the main reason that these big retail chains, offering big-volume orders, have so many choices with Europe holding 60% of the country export and US with close to 25%. Bangladesh has more than 3,500 garment factories.
Chinese garment businesses are moving to Bangladesh being drawn there due to the low wage minimum wage 3,000 takas $38.50 (24.7 pounds) and the average wage in their factories is around 5,000 takas. Compared to China, where the minimum wage for garment workers ranges from $154 to $230 per month, and in Cambodia, where the monthly base is $80.
Too often Bangladesh workers receive less than the new minimum, and some in most cases often get reassigned to lower pay grades and bonuses were reduced with many of the worker living in severe poverty and on the streets
The reality of this is that despite human rights group and the media bringing focus to these condition the brands or owners in the the parliament has yet to lobby or put up a bill or discussion or support unions. Over 40 brands in recent news joined together to set up a committee that will look into safety-related issues of the garment industry but the million dollar question for this committee is Are you concern with raising the minimum wage and safer work condition or the rise of their purchase rates.
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