Wages in Bangladesh (News)

On Sunday, August 22nd, Markus Schlesag reports in Newsclick about wages in Bangladesh. The article quotes the CCC arguing that in average the workers’ wages make 1% of the retail price. A worker in Bangladesh, who earns the recently set minimum wage of 35 Euro/month gets 14 Cents an hour. According to Maik Pflaum of the CCC this does not suffice. He argues that workers should earn a living wage of 100 Euro/month. Pflaum also criticizes the social standards initiative “BSCI” with its 582 members: it would not help, because the fixed minimum wages are too low and the standards are not controlled by people whom the workers trust.

One day later Markus Schlesag again reports in the same news portal. Gisela Burckhard from the CCC is quoted criticizing that buyers in Bangladesh have reduced their buying prices by 1/3 within the last 5 years. The article presents quotes from textile workers from the CCC publication “Die Schönfärberei der Discounter” from April 2010 – these quotes demonstrate that the minimum wages in Bangladesh do not suffice for a living. Again, the BSCI is mentioned which, according to the media contact, Stephanie Luong, helps to improve working conditions in production countries, e.g. by demanding minimum wages and asking the companies to pay even higher wages. This statement is opposed by the CCC claim that the BSCI was only founded to counter legal rules and that it does not set through proper wages.

Labour costs are, indeed, strongly debated and national minimum wages are often too low. The political philosopher Iris Young convincingly suggested that it is not just, if companies argue that it is not their business to set living wages, but that producing countries should do so, as the BSCI does. Young argues that this does not work, due to structural causes (the picture by AFP, Munir Uz Zaman, is a manifestation of some of these structural causes: here state power is used to shut protesting workers down to keep up a business-friendly investment climate in a global competitive environment – see: Jakartaglobe July, 30th 2010).

However, the reality of implementing living wages is certainly more complex than the suggested 1% wage costs seem to be. There is a quite recent article in Global Social Policy by Miller D & P Williams (2009): What Price a Living Wage? Implementation Issues in the Quest for Decent Wages in the Global Apparel Sector – in which they show how a living wage could be implemented.

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