The Guardian’s managed to get itself hoodwinked by some of the more obstreperous campaigners in this story about the making of the Spice Girls t-shirts in Bangladesh – the workers are making only 35 pence an hour. Well, yes, perhaps they are, that’s well above minimum wage in that country. It’s also well above the average wage in that country. The point being that Bangladesh is a poor place which is why people gain poor wages for their labour. This actually being the definition of a poor place, that people receive poor wages, if they’re getting poor wages then it’s a poor place.
Failure to understand this most basic point is going to lead to a failure to understand the real world – you know, that reality The Guardian is so good at not quite getting?[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Revealed: Spice Girls T-shirts made in factory paying staff 35p an hour[/perfectpullquote]
Rilly?[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Spice Girls T-shirts sold to raise money for Comic Relief’s “gender justice” campaign were made at a factory in Bangladesh where women earn the equivalent of 35p an hour during shifts in which they claim to be verbally abused and harassed, a Guardian investigation has found.[/perfectpullquote]
Yes, really. So, what’s the actual wage they’re getting:[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Some machinists are paid 8,800Tk (£82) a month, according to a recent payslip – meaning they earn the equivalent of 35p an hour for a 54-hour week. The sum is well below the 16,000Tk unions have been demanding and falls far short of living wage estimates.[/perfectpullquote]
The minimum wage in such factories is around 5,600 Tk a month – before the recently negotiated rise. So, they’re getting well above the local minimum wage. But we can and should go further than this. A state school teacher – admittedly, they’ll be getting free accommodation of some variable standard – is on 8,000 to 9,000 Tk a month. A private sector teacher preparing people for something like A Levels perhaps 18,000 Tk a month. A Midshipman in the Bangladeshi Navy will be on 10,500 Tk, a Lieutenant in the Navy 29,000.
Bangladesh is a poor place paying s**t wages, this is what being a poor place means. Which does rather put this into perspective:[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]According to the Asia Floor Wage Alliance, a global coalition of trade unions, workers’ groups and human rights organisations, the monthly living wage for Bangladesh in 2017 was 37,661Tk.[/perfectpullquote]
They’re off their rockers, aren’t they? The average machinist in the average garment factory should be being paid somewhere between what the Navy pays a Lieutenant and a Lieutenant Commander? A completely nutso demand. Which is really all we need to know about these fools.
Are those women being paid 35 pence an hour? Sure they are. That being significantly better than they’d get in the absence of us all buying our t-shirts from them and the place. And if we want their pay to go up we should buy more. Anything else is just ill-informed wibble. But then we are talking of the Spice Girls, aren’t we?