The True Price of Cheap Fashion

The True Price of Cheap Fashion

Mere days ago, there was another devastating disaster in Bangladesh that resulted in the collapse of a garment factory, leaving over 400 workers dead. Bangladesh’s Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina, recently acknowledged the problems that riddle her nation’s garment industry–an industry that dominates the country’s income-generating sectors, bringing in $20 billion dollars and accounting for 77% of exports. Bangladesh cannot afford to lose the garment industry due to these recurring problems–only months ago, there was a fire in a garment factory in Dhaka, which resulted in the deaths of 112 workers. According to CNN reporters, there are only 18 inspectors that are responsible for overseeing the safety conditions in more than 100,000 garment factories around Bangladesh’s capital. These severe oversights on the part of factory owners and inspectors have led U.S. companies to second-guess the value of cheap labor. Walt Disney Company, for one, has pulled its production out of risky countries, such as Bangladesh–and it definitely isn’t the last to do so.

Think about the negative hype surrounding Nike when the media caught wind of its sub-par manufacturing facilities–this is ten times worse, because hundreds of innocent workers have died. The backlash surrounding Nike led the company to get serious about inspecting its overseas manufacturing facilities and ensuring the safety of working conditions and fair wages for its employees. Retailers worldwide, who rely on countries such as Bangladesh for its cheap labor, need to think twice about the payoff that dirt-low wages provide.

A big problem with this outsourcing issue is that American consumers don’t pay attention to where their clothes come from. Of course, the average consumer is not to blame for this oversight–countries of origin are often hidden inside a garment or left out completely. It simply isn’t something that busy Americans put much thought to. The problem ultimately comes back to business owners who would do anything to shave costs and boost profit margins. Retailers on a global level have been exploiting the cheap labor found in third world countries for years. Predominantly poor nations, like Bangladesh, rely on the income generated from labor-intense industries such as garment production–and workers will take any wage they can get their hands on. Unless we want to see these tragedies continue to unfold, U.S. retailers need to take a stance and demand better working conditions and more thorough inspections in the overseas factories where their garments are produced. Exploiting cheap labor results in the death of hundreds of factory workers annually, so companies must weigh the benefits between pinching pennies to mass produce their wares and stocking their shelves with metaphorically “bloody” clothing.

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