You are hereThink Progress: Bangladesh Factory Upgrades Could Cost Consumers As Little As 10 Cents Per Garment

Think Progress: Bangladesh Factory Upgrades Could Cost Consumers As Little As 10 Cents Per Garment

-By Bryce Covert

May 7, 2013- The factory collapse in Bangladesh has now claimed upward of 700 lives, making it the worst industrial disaster in Bangladesh and the most deadly one in the history of the garment industry. As has been widely reported, workers were hesitant to enter the building on the day of the collapse due to visible cracks in the building.

Since the disaster, many have urged large retail corporations to upgrade the working conditions in the factories from which they source their products. Three hundred large companies had previously refused to sign a pledge to do so before the collapse, citing costs. The need for low prices and fast production is driven in large part by American demand for cheap clothing. So how much would clothing prices rise for the average consumer if all of the costs of upgrading Bangladesh factories were passed on to them?

According to an estimate provided by the Worker Rights Consortium, it could be as little as 10 cents per article of clothing. The group comes to this figure by estimating that building renovation, safety equipment installation, and other related costs would come to about $3 billion, which is says is a high estimate that assumes virtually all factory buildings need major renovations, as some may not. Spreading that cost over five years, it comes to $600 million each year, and tacking 10 cents on to each of the roughly 7 billion garments exported from the country each year would easily cover that cost. After the initial investment in renovations, the group says the costs of maintenance will drop significantly.

Even without these large-scale renovations, there are precautions that could be taken immediately that would cost little. As Kimberly Ann Elliott, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development and an expert in international trade policy, told Dylan Matthews of Wonkblog, factories could install fire extinguishers, unlock doors, and take other measures that don’t add much to costs but improve workers’ safety.



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