What Part Did You and I Play in the Bangladesh Factory Collapse?
Naturally, you and I are going to respond with the answer “Nothing.” Most of us are unaware of what the mark up price is on clothing. We probably have no idea where the clothing was made and if the price paid to a developing country’s workers is fair.
I am not going to discuss the factory’s collapse. You can find this information throughout the various channels of the media. What I would like to do is share some of my research with you.
Bangladesh has the lowest labor costs in the world, with the minimum wage for garment workers set at roughly $37 a month. That means a worker, mostly female, earns a $1.85 a day. I figured this out by assuming they work five-day weeks. This is the price of a cup of coffee in North America.
The country is in the low-lying Ganges Delta and is very vulnerable to flooding. In September 1998, Bangladesh saw the most severe flooding in modern world history with the destruction of 300,000 houses and nearly 10,000 km of roads washed away. Over 1,000 human deaths occurred and 135,000 cattle were killed. Over 30 million people were left homeless. Two-thirds of the country was under water. Even in good times, 77 million people are contaminated with arsenic from water. If tides and water levels continue to rise world-wide (and they will) it is estimated that up to 20 million people will become refugees.
The problems of climate, poverty and a need for education for all, continues to plague Bangladesh. So, when this garment factory collapsed, the carelessness of those in authority is disgusting.
Rich and influential people are taking advantage of the poorest people on earth. These are people with few resources to fight back. What has this got to do with you and me? I think that each of us can make a difference by furthering our knowledge of which big companies employ Bangladesh labour and what they are willing to do to upgrade the lives of these developing nations. Maybe they should set aside part of their profits or maybe increase the price of their garments. If the label read, 5% of the total cost of this garment is invested in upgrading wages then I think we would welcome such a social and global conscience.
Something for us all to think about. Paula.
P.S Walmart, H & M, Inditex, Gap and others, use (misuse?) Bangladesh labour.