Statistics from the Public Radio International (PRI) show that garment workers in many parts of the world earn much less than the national average. Of the twenty-one countries investigated by PRI, the monthly wage for garment workers range widely from $1,864 (USA) to $194 (Sri Lanka).
However, a higher wage level in absolute term does not necessarily mean a more decent pay. For example, while garment workers in the US apparently earn much more than their peers in other parts of the world, the wage level nevertheless was only 51 percent of the U.S. national average wage. Likewise, while garment workers in Honduras earn only $650 each month, this amount was approximately 107 percent of the national average wage in the country.
For more information about the wage level for garment workers around the world, please explore the Fair-fashion Quiz created by PRI.
Video Discussion Questions:
#1 Why do you agree or disagree with the video that automation will post a significant challenge to garment workers in developing countries such as Bangladesh? How should policymakers react to the challenges?
#2 Can automation be a permanent solution to the social responsibility problem in the garment industry?
#3 In your view, how will automation affect the big landscape of apparel sourcing and the patterns of world textile and apparel trade?
#4 Why or why not do you anticipate a sizable return of apparel manufacturing to the United States if apparel production can be largely automated?
Additional reading: The robots are coming for garment workers. (WSJ, 2018)
Please feel free to share your views and join our online discussion!
#1 How shall we describe the relationship between the Alliance and the Accord? Are they collaborators or competitors? Do you think the Alliance and the Accord can join forces?
#2 How many inspectors are “enough” for Bangladesh? The case study mentions that the Alliance and the Accord are observing around 2,000 factories, but how about the other 3,000 in Bangladesh? And how about those unknown and “undocumented” factories, where the working conditions could be even worse?
#3 Do Western fashion brands genuinely care about what is happening in the Bangladeshi garment factories? Or do they actually care about their own interests—profit, public image and reputation among consumers?
#4 What has made Western fashion brands stay in Bangladesh after the Rana Plaza tragedy instead of moving their sourcing orders to other Asian countries in the area such as Cambodia and Vietnam?
#5 How transparent should be companies’ supply chain? Should fashion brands be required to disclose more supply chain information—such as where their products were made and who made them? What could be the difficulty of enforcing a more transparent apparel supply chain?
#6 In addition to more frequent inspections, what other measures can be taken to improve social responsibility practices in the garment industry?
#7 Four years after the Rana Plaza, are you satisfied with the changes that have happened in Bangladesh? What major social responsibility problems in the Bangladeshi garment industry remain unsolved?
[Please feel free to join our online discussion. For the purpose of convenience, please mention the question # in your reply/comment.]
This video is a great reminder of the impact of our fashion apparel industry, in particular through trade and sourcing. One key learning objective of FASH455 is to help students get aware of those critical global agendas that are highly relevant to the textile and apparel sector.
Discussion Question: After watching the video, do you have any new thoughts about how you can contribute to the building of a better world as a FASH major?
[Note: The 2017 U.S. Fashion Industry Benchmarking Study has been released]
The report can be downloaded from HERE
Key Findings of the study:
I. Business environment and outlook in the U.S. Fashion Industry
- Overall, respondents remain optimistic about the five-year outlook for the U.S. fashion industry. “Market competition in the United States” is ranked the top business challenge this year, which, for the first time since 2014, exceeds the concerns about “increasing production or sourcing cost.”
II. Sourcing practices in the U.S. fashion industry
- U.S. fashion companies are more actively seeking alternatives to “Made in China” in 2016, but China’s position as the No.1 sourcing destination seems unlikely to change anytime soon. Meanwhile, sourcing from Vietnam and Bangladesh may continue to grow over the next two years, but at a slower pace.
- U.S. fashion companies continue to expand their global reach and maintain truly global supply chains. Respondents’ sourcing bases continue to expand, and more countries are considered potential sourcing destinations. However, some companies plan to consolidate their sourcing bases in the next two years to strengthen key supplier relationships and improve efficiency.
- Today, ethical sourcing and sustainability are given more weight in U.S. fashion companies’ sourcing decisions. Respondents also see unmet compliance (factory, social and/or environmental) standards as the top supply chain risk.
III. Trade policy and the U.S. fashion industry
- Overall, U.S. fashion companies are very excited about the conclusion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations and they look forward to exploring the benefits after TPP’s implementation.
- Thanks to the 10-year extension of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), U.S. fashion companies have shown more interest in sourcing from the region. In particular, most respondents see the “third-country fabric” provision a critical necessity for their company to source in the AGOA region.
- Free trade agreements (FTAs) and trade preference programs remain underutilized in 2016 and several FTAs, including NAFTA and CAFTA-DR, are utilized even less than in previous years. U.S. fashion companies also call for further removal of trade barriers, including restrictive rules of origin and remaining high tariffs.
The benchmarking study was conducted between March 2016 and April 2016 based on a survey of 30 executives from leading U.S. fashion and apparel brands, retailers, importers, and wholesalers. In terms of business size, 92 percent of respondents report having more than 500 employees in their companies, while 84 percent of respondents report having more than 1,000 employees, suggesting that the findings well reflect the views of the most influential players in the U.S. fashion industry.
For the benchmarking studies in 2014 and 2015, please visit: https://www.usfashionindustry.com/resources/industry-benchmarking-study
- Zara Hayes, Director of Clothes to Die For
- Sarah Hamilton, Producer of Clothes to Die For
- Mara Burr, Senior vice president from the Albright Stonebridge Group
- Avedis Seferian, President and CEO of Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production(WRAP)
- Marsha A. Dickson, Professor of Department of Fashion and Apparel Studies, Irma Ayers Professor of Human Services, Co-Director of Sustainable Apparel Initiative, University of Delaware
Panel discussion questions:
- What does the Rana Plaza tragedy bring out those aspects of the garment industry that many people don’t know?
- What was it like going to Bangladesh and talking to survivors of the Rana Plaza? What are the behind the scene stories of filming the documentary Clothes To Die For?
- What changes are happening in the Bangladesh garment industry after the Rana Plaza? Particularly, what people in Bangladesh are doing to prevent tragedies like the Rana Plaza from happening again?
- The Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety (the Alliance) is a major effort from the U.S. business community in response to the Rana Plaza tragedy. What the Alliance has being doing, what major accomplishments have been achieved and what is the future work plan of the organization?
- Has corporate social responsibility (CSR) practices in the Bangladesh garment industry critically improved after the Rana Plaza? Compared with other leading apparel manufacturers in the world such as China, Vietnam, India, Cambodia and Indonesia, is Bangladesh still significantly lagging behind in terms of corporate social responsibility practices?
- How does the academia look at the Rana Plaza? Does the tragedy lead to some new research questions? What is the “academic” recipe for improving the CSR practices in the Bangladesh garment industry?
- Will enhanced factory inspection increase production cost and make apparel “Made in Bangladesh” lose price competitiveness?
- To prevent tragedies like the Rana Plaza from happening again, what each individual consumer can do or should do?
- Sub-contracting is regarded as an indispensable part of today’s global apparel supply chain. But factories undertaking sub-contracting work operate in a “black box”—many of them are off the chart for inspection and audit. Any progress or new thinking on how to solve the sub-contracting issue in the garment industry?