The True Cost of Your Cheap Clothes: Slave Wages for Bangladesh Factory Workers: An Analysis

In the article “The True Cost of Your Cheap Clothes: Slave Wages for Bangladesh Factory Workers,” the author often ignored economics of the global garment industry over the past 10 years. The article explores the changes in local economies and movement of industry across Asia in an effort to provide the cheapest clothing possible to Global North countries. Bangladesh, in particular, has seen a boom in the number of factories present within its borders, to the extent where some experts are expecting Bangladesh to be named the world’s biggest garment producer in a matter of years. This is supported by the fact that “More than four million people work in Bangladesh’s garment industry, which now accounts for about 80 per cent of the country’s foreign trade.” Clearly, the garment industry dominates the culture and economy of this small Asian country. The article goes on to chronicle garment factory incidents that devastated communities including fires and building safety violations, and the human rights injustices workers face such as low salaries and severe malnutrition. The article then continues to state that consumers need to take responsibility for their purchases and the process behind the products that they buy. We must deconstruct the culture of cheap products if we want to induce change and stop international worker abuse.

What was interesting about this article was the way in which it deconstructed the effects of the fashion industry on Bangladesh not just economically, but also socially. It lacked the environmental perspective that we were looking for in many of our sources, but it gave excellent insight into the human rights concerns and abuse that is occur at the hands of Global North consumerism. One of the most interesting points that this article made was exploration of the cycle of reducing wages. Demands for cheaper clothes from first world consumers pressures corporations to neglect workers in order to meet those demands. This is turn results in impoverished workers and grave health concerns for employees. This could be disastrous considering the large percentage of individuals who work for the garment industry in Bangladesh.

As stated, though this article lacked information pertinent to the environmental damages associated with the fast fashion industry and garment production, it did an adequate and well-rounded analysis of the social impacts of the apparel market. The most useful information that I gathered from this article included facts about wages, and comparisons of wages across countries. Additionally, this article was able to create a fantastic context profile on the working conditions of garment makers. It demonstrated that we as consumers are clearly part of the problem, and outlined ways in which we must address the issues as Global North citizens in order to create change internationally.

As the name of our project is the “Cost of Fashion” and we are exploring what we deem as “true costs” this article was extremely relevant to rounded out our cost profile. While we are targeting environmental costs, I feel that this article in particular demonstrates the need to also address social and socio-political costs at the hands of consumeristic Global North individuals. The environment is not the only thing being exploited and abused, but workers in foreign nations are too.

Parry, Simon. “The True Cost of Your Cheap Clothes: Slave Wages for Bangladesh Factory Workers.” South China Morning Post. South China Morning Post, 31 Mar. 2017. Web. 01 May 2017.

-SK