It is sad, amazing, complex, almost justifiable but then reprehensible at the same time that right now, in parts of the UK we have almost a slave labour/slave wage economy, ticking over, right under your nose.
And….if you like shopping for cheap clothes on the high street and online with stores like BOOHOO, you are likely to be duplicit in this economy…
I recently spoke to an industry insider who explained that in the 1950’s and 1960′, the Asian community brought manufacturing back to places like Leicester and helped boost the economy in that area by reinvigorating a lost and dead industry that used to flourish in the post industrial revolution era in the UK.
On the face of it, this sounds like a success, something feels good about that… but the truth is that with globalisation, faster moving foreign supply chains and shorter turnaround times, now a reality for offshore manufacturing, the only way UK textile manufacturers can survive is to compete on price and offer faster turnaround.
This race to the bottom is good for the consumer but terrible for the health and well being of those engaged in that manufacturing process.
Working in cramped conditions during a pandemic, when fast fashion demanded the wheels kept turning, to fuel an increase in online shopping because we all sat at home with nothing to do, is the reason we see a lock down in Leicester right now.
This is a problem as old as capitalism. Entrepreneurs and business managers need to make a profit and need to find ways to survive. In a poorly regulated market where legislation is ineffective, the need to survive means rules and laws are broken to stay in business and put food on the table.
Immigrant workers with little spoken English come to the UK for a better life and somehow end up being the ones on the front line of manufacturing on less than £4 an hour. ‘Something’ is saying that these people are worth half the pay than those enjoying the UK living wage right now (Set by the Living wage foundation).
Who is to blame; what is that ‘something’, who needs to take responsibility?
Shall we blame the consumer?
What about the retailer?
What about the department within the retailer who manages the buying, who manages their social responsibility charter and do they give a fig about ethical clothing?
Shall we blame the factory owner who is only paying £4 an hour?
Shall we blame Globalisation?
Shall we blame China?
How are we going to fix this without destroying these small businesses in Leicester that do employ these poor people in an area where there is little work anyway?
The answer is such a cliche, I barely want to write it down.
Demand is created by a mixture of consumer appetites and marketing persuasion.
As a consumer, you have ‘needs’ and these are hierarchical, defined by a guy called Maslow.
Business’s identify your needs and seduce you into parting with your money for products they have created to satisfy you.
They know you love a bargain.
The key word here is ‘YOU’.
Its horrible to be put in the spotlight but the truth is that you need to make better buying decisions.
It’s like eating spinach when you really wanted that cream bun.
It is no fun.
Suck it up and buy ethical clothing!!!