In Ethiopia, women collect 23 euros to make our sales – Le Club de Mediapart

With the sales approaching, the idea for this post came to me after the publication, on December 29, of a brief on Médiapart.


Too expensive Asia

For many years now, China has become too expensive for manufacturers of disposable clothing. Since 2010, the basic salary has been reassessed there on average every two years in order to curb social discontent and encourage domestic consumption. During 2013, the minimum wage increased by 18% in the 24 provinces which chose to modify it. This, of course, did not help the affairs of the multinationals who had relocated their production to the Middle Kingdom. They have therefore found themselves confronted, in recent years, with staggering wage increases which could have called into question the low prices at which they sell their products with us and, who knows?, Incidentally, the dividends they pay to their shareholders.

The parade was found by the frusques brands by moving their Chinese production to countries in Southeast Asia such as Cambodia, Vietnam, Burma or, more sinister, Bangladesh in which social laws are practically non-existent , as are environmental standards too. The latter is a real paradise for fast fashion. At least until the Rana Plaza disaster and its more than 1,100 deaths on April 24, 2013. The minimum wage paid to textile workers was then $ 38 per month …

… $ 38 per month, the astronomical sum of almost $ 1.27 per day, or almost 2 US cents more than the absolute poverty line fixed, until 2015, at $ 1.25 / day by the Bank world. Following the collapse of Rana Plaza, Bangladeshi textile workers demanded a $ 100 increase in the minimum wage. The government generously offered to bring it up to $ 66 a month before the factory owners offered $ 55, saying they couldn't give more. This figure is now € 85.

Also following this catastrophe, Western consumers have become more vigilant in terms of the ethical image of brands and these are not insensitive to it, sales oblige. Because it is a mess to entrust its production to factory owners for whom the requirements set by the principals are more important than the lives of their employees, especially when a single work accident, never recognized as such on the spot, makes more than 1.000 victims of a blow. But even at $ 85 a month, Bangladesh remained the country with the lowest cost of labor. Was …

Is it time for Africa?

… Was. It is necessary to speak to the past because 38, 55 or 85 $ it still makes a hell of a sum from which never reluctantly offload the old fools who undermine the planet. So they had to do better worse … and they did. Or ? In Ethiopia before, probably, trying to set up in other countries on the African continent. The only problem for multinationals in Africa is to find countries that are politically stable enough to take the risk of investing there. Ethiopia, a young "democracy", seems to be the first ideal candidate. The country, experiencing recurrent famines, already does not hesitate to rent its most fertile land to agribusiness. What could be more natural for him to welcome multinationals in fast fashion now?

"Cheap and skilled labor. Seven times cheaper than in China, half as much as in Bangladesh". It is with this type of slogan that the Ethiopian government has baited the multinationals so that they leave Asia to come and settle at home. They also attracted them by offering them cheap land, installation aid and exemption from charges. Ethiopia also had the advantage of having a long tradition in textiles, leather and shoes since the Italian colonization of 1935 and established the lowest minimum wage in the world in the private sector: $ 26 per month, about 23 €.

Under these conditions, several fast fashion multinationals have of course responded to the offer. Among them, H&M and PVH better known under the brands Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein. So believe them when they tell you about ethical and fair manufacturing like H&M does. China is also starting to outsource its production of clothing and shoes like Huajian, which supplies other prestigious brands like Guess. It also allows it to transfer part of its pollution there.

If Ethiopian leaders are proud to present new projects like the Hawassa industrial park near Addis Ababa, the cruel reality is that Ethiopian textile workers are struggling to provide for the basic needs of their families. Who can live decently, who can find accommodation in satisfactory conditions, who can eat enough … with such a miserable wage?

But this racing frenzy with ever lower production costs may be running out. Ethiopian women are not as docile as Asians and are already rebelling against this fast fashion system.

Let's not forget the dramatic environmental and health aspect of the textile industry

The textile industry is the second main anthropogenic reason for global warming, after the oil industry. I let you discover all the ravages it causes on our planet in this excellent video of the World:

Why dressing pollutes the planet © Le Monde

Humanism and solidarity

Knowing all this and also being able to ignore the situation in which our country finds itself … what if we learn to boycott these multinationals? What if, as recommended by POURLAVENIR, whose nickname is so correct, we grant the money we allocate to these balances which are often useless and futile to the solidarity funds towards the strikers to support them in their fight against the privatization of pensions? Thanks in advance.

The Club is the free expression space for Mediapart subscribers. Its contents do not engage the drafting.

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