Friday, 29 April 2016

Poor Fashion

Sir Philip Green removed £1.2 billion from fashion retailer BHS before selling it for £1 to "former bankrupt and racing driver Dominic Chappell," says today's Financial Times. At the top end of the fashion business, an already wealthy family enriched themselves further.

The other end of the rag trade is all about poverty.Three years ago, on 24th April 2013, the Rana Plaza factory collapsed in Bangladesh, killing 1,136 garment workers.As Baptist World Aid Australia point out in their third annual Fashion Report, out last week;

"There are presently 14.2 million people in forced labour exploitation and 168 million child labourers scattered across the global economy. Many of this number are forced to work in the farms and factories that feed the apparel industry. For millions of others working in the industry, wages remain so low that they are unable to lift themselves and their families out of poverty." 

Fewer than a third of the companies surveyed were "able to demonstrate that some portion of their workers were earning significantly above the minimum wage."

These two ends of the fashion thread show why capitalism must be controlled. It is, as Cambridge economist Ha-Joon Chang points out in "23 Things They Don't Tell You about Capitalism." So this is a debate about the degree of control. Should we allow the boss of a fashion retailer to swim in luxury while the people who make the clothes he sells sink into poverty?

These two stories - rags and riches - highlight the poverty gap, the growing distance between the poor and the rich. People in Scotland live with this gap every day, whether they are putting a coin into the hands of a poor woman under the Hielanman's Umbrella, or popping into the shops for a new, cheap, t-shirt. 

We can all work, by buying fair trade and supporting fair taxation, to close the gap that is killing the poor.

Chang, H., 2011. 23 things they don’t tell you about capitalism, London: Penguin Books.
Nimbalker, G., Mawson, J. & Harris, C., 2016. The 2016 Australian Fashion Report: The Truth Behind the Barcode, North Ryde, New South Wales: Baptist World Aid, Australia. Available at: [Accessed April 29, 2016].

No comments:

Post a Comment