The economic benefits of sending migrants to work offshore are thought to be vast. The World Bank estimate that remittances worth some $550 billion were sent home through formal channels in 2012, with $401 billion of that money flowing into developing nations (World Bank report, 2013).
The process of globalisation relies on two key characteristics, technology and cheap labour. Technology has allowed orders to be communicated across the globe; container ships and cheap air travel have allowed goods to be transported quickly and efficiently to the consumers. Cheap labour has attracted transnational corporations to make and sell goods in emerging economies ensuring profits, but at a significant human cost.
Last November, 112 workers were killed in a fire at a clothes factory in Dhaka. In April this year the Rana Plaza textile factory collapsed killing 1, 221 people and earlier this month the Aswad factory fire (link to article) killed nine. In their own rights, these are shocking stories. Such a series of accidents are a reflection of the poor working conditions and unregulated textile industry in Bangladesh, where the minimum wage for the industry is a paltry £24. Even more concerning is that six months after the factory collapse, many British and American companies who have received goods from Rana Plaza (link to Guardian article) have still not paid out compensation.
If rich consumers don't want to pay more than £2.50 for a T-shirt, the cost has to be picked up by the textile workers. When that cost is their life, surely this price is not worth paying. If you do not want to be part of the problem, buy clothing from ethically sourced companies, whose production chain is transparent and workers are paid a fair wage.
1. Should all businesses consider ethics and corporate social responsibility when manufacturing goods abroad?
2. To what extent can conditions in offshore factories be monitored by the textile industry?
3. An article written in the Economist entitled The factory of the future sets out a vision for manufacturing in the 21st Century, do you think this will ever become reality?
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