Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Are We Well Dressed Enough?

Are We Well Dressed Enough?

For many years there has been a world wide debate on mass production factories in developing economies such as China. Are we supporting them by helping their economy or are we taking advantage of the underpaid workers?

Have you ever wondered where your favourite shirt, blouse, pants, skirts, or even shoes were made from? And who stitched together your favourite little black dress that you usually wear out on a girls night? These are questions you usually don't think about when purchasing new clothes and accessories, but if you look on that little tag inside your garment chances are it was made from a developing country such as China, Thailand, India and many more. When you really look into 'who' is making what you wear every day you get to learn more about a global issue that has been a debate for many years. If we buy our clothes and accessories that are made in developing countries are we supporting these countries or taking advantage of the low cost of labour and production?

Producing these garments and other products in a developing economy is really different from a developed economy, this is because the cost of production and labour is lower. What I found in China was that people who had worked in these factories were getting paid less than one dollar an hour. Now imagine working full days and only making a maximum of eight dollars a day to help feed your entire family and pay for other necessities. After researching the environment one would be put in if they were to work for one of these factories, they would expect to work long hours, have low pay, and unsafe or unhealthy working conditions. Also the green house affect is starting to increase with the high demands for production and manufacture of clothing and footwear. This demands high use of water, energy, waste disposal and pollution. The New York Times found that, "Too much of the country's prosperity has been absorbed by companies' profits and too little has gone to workers." With all these concerns are we taking advantage of these underpaid workers?

Globally, the workforce in clothing and textiles production was around 26.5 million in 2000 and it continues to grow. China has the fastest growing internal market and the largest share of world trade. More than one quarter of the world's production of clothes and textiles is produced in China. On the other hand by creating jobs for the workers in China it could help economically stabilize their developing economy and in a small way help decrease poverty. When a company decides to produce their merchandise in China the sector offers an opportunity for development by creating many relatively low skilled jobs and a low wage. Without these factories many jobs would be lost leaving zero income to these families who need it the most which would start to increase the percent of poverty. So maybe by having these mass production factories in China, and having us the consumer buy these products will actually help this developing economy. I found an article on "The Everyday Economist" states that mass production factories such as the ones in China are actually one of the first positive signs of growth for those in developing countries. They are not morally wrong. A person needs to analyze the wage by the standards of a country. A low wage in America could be perceived different than in China. When the standards of living is so low the money can go a lot further. Another point to be aware of is if wages and conditions are so bad why would workers choose to work there? As more factories open up the more individuals can find work. This will then increase competition for labour which in the future will increase higher wages. If the employment rate goes up and wages go up then the developing country alone will increase in the standard of living.

Between the two debates there are many factors that you may need to consider when purchasing different clothes and accessories. Some may be against mass production factories and hard labour for little pay, but some may agree that this is not as bad as it is perceived and that in the end it is helping the developing economy in the country. And then there are the ones that don't care at all! If you are someone who does not support sweatshops or hard labour factories there are other alternatives. You can research and purchase garments that are made within Canada, or even search for those local designers to help support your city. If you are someone who believes that this is actually helping the developing country in increasing their standard of living then continue to support it by purchasing these garments because a small percent of that cost will be going to those who are in need of it. It is fascinating how so much information can be brought up to an individual's concern just by taking a look at the little tag inside your garments. By being aware and informed of how and who is making your favourite clothes and accessories can really help our society make better decisions in things that may seem so simple in life but could be a life changing ordeal in someone else's life in a different country.

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