Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The perils of buying more ... or less!

Bangladesh has announced that the minimum wage for garment industry workers will be doubled, from $18/month to $35. This would - potentially and eventually - bring some 2.5 million people above the $1/day poverty measure ... but it's actually $1.25 these days, so nevermind. Workers had asked for $55, so the move hasn't stopped the riots. Apparently, a coalition of NGOs and trade unions have decided that the "Asia floor wage" should be about $140/month. Reading a little further into the AFW website shows that even this is pretty low: it would need to be around $250/month to match the $5/hour minimum wage rate we used to have once different prices are included (PPP).

Johnstone discusses fair trade clothing and laments that "many employers will take months or years to implement it or fiddle the figures by imposing impossible production targets that can be met only by unpaid overtime." Western customers can get invigorated by occasional, brand-specific boycotts, but aren't willing to make the connection between cheap clothing and the low wages that made it possible. The recession has moved even more customers into the cheaper clothing, "so the budget fashion industry has had a good recession."

Between that and the 6kg of C02 reportedly released in the creation and transportation of jeans, she decided not to buy any clothes in 2010. "So far I have managed to stick to my resolve. Of course, this is the last thing that my garment worker in Dhaka wants. After all, if she wasn't paid tuppence a piece to make T-shirts, how else might she be obliged to make her living?"

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