The Current Political Climate
Many brands in the affluent West have the ability to exploit poor workers in third-world countries using slave labour. This occurs from employers using workers for their instrumental rather than intrinsic value; the workers must manufacture clothes, and they will paid a very small wage; the employers will then pocket any profit gained from sales. This marks one of the main criticisms of the capitalist society in which we live.
Businesses are centred around gaining profit because of the competitiveness of their industry. This in turn means that the rights of their workers are at risk. Unlike us, for many businesses, gaining profit is more important than guaranteeing the rights and wages of their workers. This current political climate therefore makes it easier for Western capitalist countries to exploit the third-world workers.
Slavery and Slave Labour in the UK
In 2015 the conservative government passed the Modern Slavery Act. The Act mentions in Article 4 of the human rights convention: no one shall be held in slavery or servitude. No one should be required to perform forced or compulsory labour. It is clear from this that the UK government has made sure that worker’s rights are protected. This is important in making sure that we live in an equal and fair society. Despite this piece of legislation, slavery and slave labour still exists in the UK. However, these laws are important in ensuring that it is more difficult for employers to exploit their workers in the UK. This does not stop big companies and corporations from going overseas in order to exploit people for cheap labour. The reason for this is that the UK legislation can only fully protect people who live within the UK.
Who is solving this?
The Joseph Rowntree foundation is a UK independent organisation working to solve UK poverty through social change. One of their recent projects in April 2018 made many findings linked to poverty. They found that there are links between low productivity, low-pay and in-work poverty. They are a pressure group, and aim to influence the government to take their stance on poverty into account. Their research is also helpful as they provide the government with necessary information to take action on a particular issue. Groups and foundations such as this make the political climate more open to changes.
By presenting their information and research on the subject of poverty and exploitation, they make it difficult for the UK government to ignore the issue.
How does this influence politics?
The political climate within the UK makes it difficult for the government to ignore the issue. This is due to the existence of pressure groups and think tanks. They provide research into areas such as poverty and exploitation, and the government pass legislation based on this. Due to the 2015 modern slavery act, it is increasingly difficult for exploitation to legally occur in the UK. However, the same cannot be said for foreign countries.
Pakistani Politics and Exploitation
According to many reports such as “DAWN news”, Pakistan is third in human slavery ranking. It is estimated that nearly 36 million people across the globe live as slaves. Pakistan contain around 2 million of the slaves across the globe, which is a high proportion for one country. This is part of why we wanted to employ tailors in Pakistan; by paying them all at least 2x the National Minimum Wage with paid overtime and medical, we provide refuge from a grim alternative. The National Commission for justice and peace provides services was set up in 1985 by Catholic Bishops’ conference of Pakistan. In 1992 they were successful in passing a law on the abolition of bonded labour. Despite the fact that this law clearly renounces bonded labour, the issue of slavery still remains in the country today. This could be for a variety of reasons. The government may have been ineffective at implementing the legislature, there may be an exploitative culture within the country itself, or it may be that foreign countries have found ways to exploit the workers within.
Does Nike Tolerate Slave Labour?
One report which clearly exhibits this is The Guardian, reporting on the company “Nike”. Nike were accused of tolerating sweatshops, with their workers facing “poverty, harassment, dismissal and intimidation”. In fact, it is scandals such as this that moved Honi Pein to found Glass Clothing three years ago.
Prior to this scandal, in 2001, Nike promised to improve the conditions of 500,000 global workers. There were many reports of children under 16 in Pakistan who were forced to work for the company, which has now been declared illegal under the US air quality standards. The minimum working age has now been raised to 18 in Nike shoe factories. Find out more about Nike’s history of slave labour use here.
The evidence shows that scandals with foreign companies exploiting the Pakistani workforce still occurred later in the decade. Despite legislation put in place by the Pakistani government, foreign powers and companies were still able to find a way to utilise the workforce unfairly for their own ends. The politics within the country is seemingly not as effective as it should be in preventing exploitative situations such as these.
How Does Pakistan Link to Western Culture?
Pakistan is one of many countries in which people are exploited for their labour by affluent countries and global companies in the West. The legislation made by governments in these countries has the correct intentions to abolish forced labour. However, it can be seen through this example that even though the government has tightened the policies within the country has not been effective in abolishing forced labour once and for all. This may be for a variety of reasons, such as not enforcing the policies properly. However, much of the exploitative culture within the country stems from affluent Western companies seeing an opportunity to gain cheap labour to form their products. This includes poor working conditions, poor pay and a significant amount of hours working.
The average amount of time a person should be working is up to 48 hours per week. However, in many cases, people are forced to work for unreasonable hours and their pay is minimal. The fact that these people are not being adequately protected by their governments is an issue in itself, and may be a reason for why it is so much easier to exploit people in third world countries than it would be in the UK.
This does not excuse Western countries exploitation of this nature. If anything, Western governments should implement legislation ensuring that their companies cannot exploit people overseas. Therefore, due to the political climate in both UK and third-world countries, companies are exploiting the vulnerable. We believe this needs to stop.
Glass Clothing, through our transparency in dealing both with consumers and producers of the clothing, aims to take steps to prevent the awfulness of the exploitation situation progressing. We disclose information about our tailors right here on this website, so that you can know who is making your clothes. People before profit, always.