Globalization’s Biggest Flaws Are Found in the Fashion Industry

Consumers win while production workers lose.
May 27, 2015·
Kelly Bryant is a Los Angeles–based freelance writer covering fashion, pop culture, and parenting for a variety of national publications.

In a perfect world, globalization improves the lives of everyone globally. But it is an imperfect world, and the practice simply isn’t working for all parties involved.

Defined by Merriam-Webster as “the development of an increasingly integrated global economy marked especially by free trade, free flow of capital and the tapping of cheaper foreign labor markets,” globalization sounds all well and good, but free trade isn’t fair trade, and therein lies the problem.

We may experience a shopper’s high when scoring great deals, but laborers are hardly feeling warm and fuzzy while upholding their end of the bargain.

John Hilary, executive director of War on Want, an organization fighting poverty in developing countries, explains why the process is severely flawed.

“The promise of globalization was that it was going to be a win-win, that consumers in the rich world would get cheaper goods that they could buy more readily in their shops, and the people in the poorer parts of the world would get jobs, and that those jobs would give them the opportunity to work their way out of poverty,” he says in the video above. “That promise hasn’t been fulfilled. The reason for that is because globalization, and the globalized economy, has worked through the prism of capitalist relations.”

While it’s a score for consumers, it’s an exploitation of the laborers as companies set out to keep production costs low and profit margins high. According to a press release issued by the London-based War on Want, the minimum wage for garment factory employees in Bangladesh is roughly $65 a month.

In the documentary The True Cost, the imperfections of globalization are addressed in terms of the fashion industry, which Hilary cites as the clearest example of how it has failed.

“In many countries there aren’t jobs available for women, so these jobs in garment factories would be their step on the road to emancipation,” he says. “Instead of that they’ve been mired in exploitation, because they’ve been forced to work in unsafe conditions for low, poverty wages, and they haven’t, therefore, been able to see any of the fruits of their work.”