When working conditions are bad, point the finger at local authoritiesby Jagdish Bhagwati / April 2, 2013 / Leave a comment
Published in April 2013 issue of Prospect Magazine
The horrific consequences of inadequate safety standards and enforcement of provisions such as keeping exit doors open are illustrated, alas, all too well in the fatalities caused by the recent fires in garment factories in Bangladesh and Pakistan. Perhaps what is especially appalling about these deaths is that they could have been so easily avoided.
The public outcry against such deplorable working conditions in the 21st century is loud and clear, and rightly so. But strangely, consumer movements and media reports in the west have chosen quite the wrong target for their finger-pointing. Global retailers such as Walmart, which outsourced production that eventually ended up in these factories, are really not the culprits here, nor are the consumers in the west who purchase high-street fashion. There is only one place where the buck can and should stop: local and national authorities responsible for safeguarding the health and safety of their workers. They repeatedly fail to hold greedy and/or careless entrepreneurs throughout their countries to account.