Debating sweatshops

In: Uncategorized

16 Nov 2008

The last programme in the series of the BBC Radio 4 Iconoclasts programme looked at the debate around third world sweatshops. Jagdish Bhagwati, a professor of economics at Columbia University, argued that sweatshops should not be criticised for paying poor wages although he conceded it was wrong to have poor working conditions. He emphasised that industrial exports could lead to growth which could in turn life countries out of poverty.

After an initial introduction by Bhagwati there was a debate involving Ceri Dingle of Worldwrite a campaigner from War on Want and the owner of a fair trade fashion label. The advocates of ethical consumption came out with the usual clich├ęs: complaining about free market economics and trickle down theory (even though neither had been mentioned by Bhagwati or Dingle). They also focused on sweatshops in the poorer countries without understanding that the plight of those working on the land is generally worse. There were also complaints about inequality (but not arguing for more growth) and an implicit assumption that the British government could somehow help trade unions organising in poorer countries. Dingle ably put the case for more growth, greater industrialisation and higher expectations.

Comment Form