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The Human Cost of Cheap Manufacturing

May 10, 2013

24 November 2012 – 117 deaths in a fire at the Tazreen Fashion factory outside Dhaka

The charred remains of the Tazreen Fashion Factory


24 April 2013 – 1000 confirmed deaths as of the writing of this blog (and counting) in a factory building collapse in Savar, again just outside of Dhaka.

Savar Factory Collapse


If we compile figures from the last decade we find more than 1100 deaths in the region just outside of Dhaka alone, as a result of factory collapses or factory fires.

Clearly worker safety is not high on the priority list of the factory owners, and this is very unfortunate.     

In the recent case of the building collapse in Savar, current estimates suggest the casualty figure to be as high as 1400 with injuries in the region of nearly 2500. This is clearly a staggering number which points to a major malaise in the entire system which offers practically ZERO worker protection.

Bangladesh in any case has progressed to Number Two on the list of garment exporters in the world almost entirely due to the very low wages in the country – around $38 a month which workers in these factories get. With money tightening being the norm at practically every level of the value chain, there is no attempt left unturned to squeeze margins wherever possible and a major way to do so is by outsourcing the production of garments (or other items in question) to very cheap destinations such as Bangladesh.

The building, formally known as Rana Plaza, had visible cracks on it the day before whereby evacuation orders had already been given out but factory owners chose to ignore it. In spite of concerns expressed by factory workers regarding the cracks, factory owners chose to reassure them that everything was fine and they could continue to work at the factory without any worries. The very next day, the building collapsed.

Subsequent revelations have revealed that the building had permission for 5 floors only and yet there were 8 floors which were constructed. Not only that, questionable quality of construction was accompanied by very poor maintenance throughout the tenure of the building’s existence.

Clearly greed and apathy run rife among the factory owners who couldn’t care less about the poor factory workers who have had to bear the brunt of the collapse. Even more disheartening news is that majority of the workers inside the factories housed in the building were in fact women.