Bangladesh Will Raise The Minimum Wage For Garment Workers To $ 67 –A Month Ultra cheap labor costs are the reason why T-shirts and other apparel made in Bangladesh are so inexpensive

By Paolo von Schirach

November 8, 2013

WASHINGTON – If you ever wondered why Bangladesh is the second biggest apparel exporter in the world, a look at the average wages for Bangladeshi garment workers (mostly women) will provide an answer. A controversial proposal to drastically increase wages would bring the average up to US $ 67 a month. No, this not a typing error. We are talking $ 67 –a month.

Minimum wage in America

Compare this, if you can, with the new minimum wage of US $ 15 an hour just approved by the city of SeaTac in Washington state, in America. Based on a standard 8 hour day for 22 work days a month that comes to US $ 2,640.  So, $ 67 in Bangladesh, and $ 2,640 in SeaTac, Washington. That’s quite a difference.

Well, if you think the comparison is unfair because this recent increase  in just one city in Washington state is way above the US average, then let’s pick the far less generous US federal minimum wage of US $ 7.25. Based on the same  calculations, US $ 7.25 an hour comes to US $ 1,276 a month. Far less than what some workers in Washington state will take home, but way above what Bangladeshi  garment workers will get, even after a huge increase, (in fact, almost 20 times more).

Unfair comparisons?

Yes, I realize that the comparison is not fair. America is rich, Bangladesh is very poor. And we are not taking into account purchasing power adjustments, the much lower cost of living in Bangladesh, and so on.

Still, imagine working long hours in a Bangladeshi garment factory, (often in horrible conditions, with significant safety hazards, as fires and other major accidents have shown), and making a bit more than US $ 2 a day, while US minimum wage workers (also at the very bottom of the socio-economic ladder) make US $ 7.25 an hour. 

Well, the next time you shop at Wal-Mart and you see ultra cheap T-shirts made in Bangladesh, you’ll know why they are so cheap.


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