Aligning Rights and Incentives
Chapter 8: Apparel production in Bangladesh: opportunity amidst tragedy?
AbstractChapter 8 focuses on the case of apparel production and labor rights in Bangladesh. In this chapter, we demonstrate how the existing political equilibrium in Bangladesh has been poor working conditions, including several major factory fires and building collapses that have made headlines worldwide. We focus on the Rana Plaza tragedy and its aftermath as an example of how an exogenous shock, such as a building collapse or a factory fire, can be an important point of leverage for workers and their allies. While such shocks have the potential to shift the existing equilibrium, sustainable change is by no means assured. Even in the case of Bangladesh where significant international media attention was able to, at least temporarily, align end consumers with workers and their allies, the lack of long-term commitment to punishing brands and suppliers who violate workers’ rights by end consumers in combination with a domestic political equilibrium that disadvantages workers is likely to result in a missed opportunity to significantly improve working conditions in Bangladesh’s apparel industry.
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