It’s the three little words “Made in Bangladesh” or “Made in India” that are found on almost every piece of clothing in huge department stores and have the power to easily turn a fun shopping trip into a test of one’s conscience. While the majority of people either don’t care about the origin of the T-shirt they’re wearing or simply can’t afford to do so, there are still some who want the feeling of fair trade and appropriate working conditions on their skin. In the belief that they’re going to contribute something to the world becoming a better place, they often look out for the “Made in Europe“ tag, thinking the garment was sewn by a reasonably paid employee. A myth that turns out to be false.
The Clean Clothes Campaign documents how employees in clothing factories in Eastern Europe and Turkey are paid about as much as workers in Latin America or Asia and therefore can rarely feed themselves. A situation that especially the European Union is affected by, since more than half the imported articles of clothing are produced in the stated region. The study also points out how global clothing companies with earnings of billions of dollars per year shamelessly take advantage of very loose restrictions in countries like Bulgaria, Macedonia or Ukraine, where the minimum wage covers only approximately 14 % of a salary that could actually guarantee one’s existence. Unfortunately, it’s not only discounters that exploit their workers like this, but also renowned designer chains, which inevitably misleads many customers.
In order to take action, the European Union not only has to make sure that the minimum wage in the clothing industry in member countries like Bulgaria or Romania is raised to humane standards, but also needs to be more careful when it comes to the origin and the production process of the clothes imported into the Union. If the necessary trade measures are set, consumers all over Europe will hopefully soon be able to buy their clothes without having a bad conscience.
About the author:
Benedict (16) participated in the “My Europe” workshop in Vienna, Austria, in 2013. Since then he has been a member of the Youth Council for the Future (YCF).