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Garment Workers of Bangladesh

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Human Rights
Wordcount: 1257 words Published: 20th Sep 2017

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Mackenzie Dickson

The Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights is a non-profits human rights organization that recognizes and defends the basic human rights of labor workers globally. Originally as the National Labor Committee, the organization was founded in 1981 and has locations in numerous locations in the United States as well as South Asia. The main organization’s mission is to end the exploitation of factory workers than produce goods exported to the United States. There are several campaigns under the Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights, one of which is the Bangladeshi Garment Worker campaign. This campaign aims to raise awareness of the garment worker’s struggles. According to the organization’s website, “Bangladesh is the third largest exporter of garments in the world to the U.S Bangladesh’s garment workers are among the hardest working women and men in the world, but also the most exploited” and earn the lowest pay in the world (Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights).

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Bangladesh is a country east of India known for its poverty and having the highest population density in the world. The country’s population density is about 1,101 persons per square kilometer (Stotz). According to the World Bank, 31.5% of Bangladesh’s overall population is living below the poverty line in 2010; that is roughly 47,759,285 people living in poverty (World Bank Group). Based on the previous patterns, this number has likely increased considering the most recent poverty headcount ratio at national poverty lines is about seven years old. In 2015 the World Bank reported Bangladesh’s Gross National Income (GNI) as roughly $1,190; United State’s GNI is about 47 times that.  (World Bank Group). Bangladesh’s garment industry was worth about 20 billion U.S. dollars in 2013, making it the second largest clothing supplier of the world market, following China (Stotz). Bangladesh’s economy is based on the success of the garment industry. The business garment factory’s have with U.S. corporations like Wal-Mart, Disney, Gap, and Old Navy are crucial to the country’s economic growth and free trade. These large wealthy corporations do not want to pay, hence why the corporations employ factories in poverty stricken countries like Bangladesh.

The four-part short series “Hidden Face of Globalization” created by The Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights interviews the women of Bangladeshi garment factories and asks the question: Why are the basic human rights of the women who made the product and maintain the global economy not protected?

The series focuses on the young women between the ages 16 to 25 who make up 80% of the 1.8 million garment factory workers in Bangladesh (Hidden Face of Globalization). The young women work from eight in the morning until ten or eleven at night, seven days a week. Overtime is mandatory and the workers are often forced to work up to twenty hours when there is a rush to produce an order. The women are not allowed to speak while working, are allowed only two trips to the bathroom, and are fired around the age of 30. If the workers question their inhumane treatment, unsafe factory conditions, or unionizing the women are at risk of verbal assault, physical abuse, imprisonment, and/or losing their job (Hidden Face of Globalization).Garment workers bargain; they train themselves to be faster than the rest and often times report on others thinking about unionizing to achieve a higher pay (39, Ahmed). However, questioning wages and worker benefits has proven ineffective because the commission was “made up of state representatives who were supposed to advocate for worker interests. The spatial segregation of the sexes in the factory is an outward expression of gendered wage segregation with the few men at the top having jobs with more control and higher wages” (Ahmed, 40). After recognizing they have fallen subject to gender hierarchy, the women drop their concerns and attempts to unionize in fear of being sexually assaulted or harassed and give up searching for a “voice on the factory floor” (Ahmed, 40).

The job takes a toll on the women’s home life. Because of their grueling days at work, they do not have time for themselves or their families; the children are often left alone for long hours at a time and the women don’t have time to maintain healthy relationships with family members (Hidden Face of Globalization). The extreme poverty the workers return home too is discussed in the series. The women make as little as 11 to 17 cents an hour, well below the minimum wage; as a result, they and their families are forced to live and share will others who live below the poverty line. Privacy is non-existent. The small rooms are full of sometimes as many as ten people and are built from scraps. The whole community shares a small gas stove, water pump, and a single out-house (Hidden Face of Globalization). The 70s brought an increase of women into the work force, specifically export-based industries such as the garment industry and other “labor-intensive industries that rely on low-cost production to maintain competitiveness” (Beneria, 114). Corporations like Disney and Wall-mart are dependant of women’s labor to sustain their part in the world market. Labor-intensive industries are reliant of countries like Bangladesh that “are sustained by patriarchal gender norms and are reproduced in the workplace by the concerted efforts of employers and government policy” (Beneria, 114).

The factory workers that supplied Disney garments appealed to Disney asking for a pay raise. The women said if they were paid 35 cents rather than the 11-17 cents their quality of life would increase significantly, letting them live in poverty instead of below the poverty line (Hidden Face of Globalization). The women asked Disney to respect their basic human rights; the women wanted safe working conditions, basic pay raise, days off, and regulated hours. As a result the women lost their jobs. Some women chose to write to Disney corporations asking for their jobs back, explaining how multinational corporations like Disney are able to afford the costs of giving their employees basic human rights.

Works Cited

Benería, Lourdes, Günseli Berik, and Maria Floro. Gender, development, and globalization: economics as if all people mattered. New York: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, 2016. Print.

Fauzia Erfan Ahmed. “The Rise of the Bangladesh Garment Industry: Globalization, Women Workers, and Voice.” NWSA Journal, vol. 16, no. 2, 2004, pp. 34-45. www.jstor.org/stable/4317051.

Hidden Face of Globalization. Dir. Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights. Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights, 3 Apr. 2007. Web.

Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights. “About.” Www.globallabourrights.org. Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights, n.d. Web.

Stotz, Lina, and Clean Clothes Campaign. “Facts on Bangladesh’s Garment Industry.” Bangladesh Factsheet. Clean Clothes Campaign, n.d. Web.

World Bank Group. “Bangladesh.” Bangladesh Data. World Bank Group, 2016. Web.


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