The global clothing industry is one of the most prominent industries in the world. “Fashion is a highly sophisticated, $2.5 trillion global industry” employing millions of people across the globe. However, there is a large divide between the Global North and South. There are a number of issues surrounding the global clothing industry mainly the workers employed in developing countries. There are responses currently being undertaken to try and improve the inequalities faced by workers in the global clothing industry.
The term globalization is used to describe the combination of geography, people, governments and the global economy. Globalization can be defined as “global economic integration of many formerly national economies into one global economy,” this is important because it defines many individual economies becoming one. Split into two different areas; the developed countries in the Global North and developing countries in the Global South. As one would expect the majority of production and labour occurs in developing countries in the Global South and is exported to richer countries to sell the products. This is because multinational companies fragmented their production line to take advantage of cheaper costs in the South such as; cheap materials and cheap labour as different countries have different laws on wages. Another factor as to why companies use developing countries to manufacture their products is improved transport. Since planes became the common method of transporting cargo more countries in the Global South have become involved in the production line. This is because before planes, ships were the method of cargo transportation which weeks to move products whereas planes became quicker methods moving products in a day. Furthermore, this meant more products could be exported such as perishable goods like food, expanding globalisation into more countries in the global south. There is an increased number of companies moving their production factories to countries in the South to exploit raw materials and cheap labour costs, for example Zara. “As a number of supplier firms in countries such as Morocco, India and Turkey have gained the competence to manufacture intricately worked high-quality garments with the required flexibility and speed, Zara has turned to sourcing from these countries” meaning Zara has decided that countries in the South now have good quality materials and improved facilities now sourcing raw materials from them as well.
This graph shows the top 10 exporters of clothes in 2018. The Extra-EU simply exports within the EU so one EU country to another. As expected, China is the biggest exporter of clothing with a value of $158bn. However, unexpectedly the EU is the second biggest exporter of clothes with a value of $143bn. This is unexpected as the EU would be expected to be one of the biggest importers of clothes to sell and not exporting. As expected, countries in the Global South such as Vietnam and Bangladesh are large exporters of clothes but a long way below the EU and China with a value of $32bn each. (This source is from the world trade statistical review WTO, 2019)
The Global South employs millions of people in the clothing industry due to many multinational corporations moving their production factories to less developed countries. There are many examples of the benefits and negatives this industry has on the workers in these countries. Vietnam is a developing country in the Global South that relies heavily on the global clothing trade to grow its economy. “U.S. clothing imports from Vietnam grew from virtually nothing in 2000 to $3.2 billion in 2006”. Furthermore, “Vietnam has considered export the key to economic development” showing the importance of globalisation helping these countries as it gives them a much larger market and employs more people as well as growing the economy, “garment export has reported the largest export turnover…and is now the country’s second largest export item after crude oil.” “In 1995, Vietnam’s exports of textiles and clothing were worth $766 million,… data for 2006 has the total value of Vietnam’s textile and clothing exports at $5.83 billion.” These statistics show that the amount of export earnings of exportation of clothing has increased significantly between 1995 and 2006. This is beneficial to the people of Vietnam for several reasons. It improves the country’s economy which allows the Vietnamese Government to invest money into improving the lives of Vietnam’s citizens. This further “shows that the growth of exports has had a significant positive effect on employment” because of the movement of production factories to Vietnam many more people can be employed in this industry reducing levels of unemployment.
由于许多跨国公司将其生产工厂迁往欠发达国家，全球南方在服装行业雇用了数百万人。这个行业对这些国家的工人有很多好处和坏处。越南是全球南方的一个发展中国家，其经济增长严重依赖全球服装贸易。“美国从越南的服装进口从2000年的零增长到2006年的32亿美元”。此外，“越南已将出口视为经济发展的关键”表明了全球化对这些国家的重要性，因为它为这些国家提供了更大的市场，雇用了更多的人，并促进了经济增长。“服装出口报告了最大的出口营业额……现在是该国仅次于原油的第二大出口项目。” “1995年，越南纺织品和服装出口价值7.66亿美元，……2006年的数据显示，越南纺织品和服装出口总值为58.3亿美元。” 这些统计数字表明，1995年至2006年间，服装出口的出口收入大幅增加。出于几个原因，这对越南人民有利。它改善了国家的经济，使越南政府能够投资改善越南公民的生活。这进一步“表明出口的增长对就业产生了显著的积极影响”，因为生产工厂转移到越南，该行业可以雇用更多的人，降低失业水平。
Another developing country in the South that has been impacted by the global clothing trade is Bangladesh. However, this time it has had a negative impact rather than a positive one. “On 24 April 2013, in the Savar suburb of Dhaka, a building complex which housed several garment factories collapsed leaving 1129 garment workers dead and a further 2500 injured” this is a severe impact of the global clothing trade. It was later found out that “the building had seen four floors added without planning permission” The lack of thought to the workers and their safety was evident and the reputations of big companies such as Primark were tarnished as they had not taken the correct precautions to prevent a disaster like this from happening and they received a heavy backlash. This shows the ugly side of the global clothing trade and the negative impacts it can have on the developing countries reliant on it.
Currently there are several issues in the Global Clothing Industry. With regards to the human rights being violated, poor working conditions and poor pay there are several responses in place to try and combat these issues. One response to combat the growing problem is slow fashion, which means companies try to produce quality items that last longer. It is the response to fast fashion where consumers by products to only wear it once before purchasing more items. “We understand slow fashion to mean not only slowing down the consumption and production processes, but also protecting the well-being of the workers, communities, and the environment.” This helps workers by giving them a fairer living wage and helps the environment as there is less transport costs and less raw materials being used up in the production of fast fashion. Another response is improving the working conditions in factories in the South. The Runa Plaza collapse in 2013 due to poor building regulations was a wakeup call to many multinational companies. “Within weeks of the disaster, a host of leading clothing brands had signed up to the ‘Accord for Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh” meaning that companies had come forward like Primark and realised that the workers needed safer working conditions and regulations put into place to ensure the safety of workers. Furthermore, there are more rights for workers being put in place by organisations like the International Labour Organisation who fight to give workers more rights in developing countries. “the number of companies adopting and disclosing on the ILO’s workplace human rights standards has significantly increased since 1998” This shows that slowly workers are being more looked after as companies are putting these rights in their corporate social responsibility and putting them into practice in their factories. A final response to combating issues in the global clothing trade is the charity Fairtrade. Fairtrade aims to help workers in developing countries get a better deal for their work by giving them a fairer salary.
目前，全球服装行业存在几个问题。关于人权受到侵犯、工作条件差和工资低的问题，有几种应对措施试图解决这些问题。应对这一日益严重的问题的一个办法是慢时尚，这意味着公司试图生产耐用的优质产品。这是对快速时尚的回应，消费者在购买更多商品之前只需穿一次产品。“我们理解慢时尚不仅意味着减缓消费和生产过程，而且还意味着保护工人、社区和环境的福祉。”这有助于工人获得更公平的生活工资，并有助于环境，因为运输成本更低，生产快速时尚所用的原材料更少。另一个应对措施是改善南方工厂的工作条件。2013年，由于建筑监管不善，汝那广场（Runa Plaza）倒塌，这给许多跨国公司敲响了警钟。“在灾难发生的几周内，许多领先的服装品牌签署了《孟加拉国消防和建筑安全协议》，这意味着公司像Primark一样挺身而出，意识到工人需要更安全的工作条件和制定的法规，以确保工人的安全。此外，国际劳工组织（International Labor Organization）等组织正在为工人争取更多权利，这些组织在发展中国家为工人争取更多权利。“自1998年以来，采用和披露国际劳工组织工作场所人权标准的公司数量显著增加”这表明，随着公司将这些权利纳入其企业社会责任，并在其工厂付诸实施，工人正逐渐受到更多的照顾。应对全球服装贸易问题的最后对策是慈善公平贸易。公平贸易旨在通过给予发展中国家工人更公平的工资，帮助他们获得更好的工作待遇。
In conclusion, there is still a big divide between the Global North and South with poor working conditions and pay. However, responses have been implemented to try and counteract these issues with varied effect. Although they are in place, it is impossible to make sure all companies give workers good conditions and pay. It relies on companies doing right by their workers and organisations like International Labour Organisation and Fairtrade to keep campaigning for workers’ rights.