“Social Compliance” is a dirty phrase in Bangladesh particularly to businesses utilising sweatshop labour. They see it as an unnecessary cost. They do not see it for what it actually is: a lifeline for the export-oriented industries AND a means for growth and expansion. It is also an unnecessary and dirty phrase for politicians who would rather busy themselves with gherao, hartal and walkout programs.

The bottom line of a survey done by the Nari Uddug Kendra is that about seventy percent of knitwear factories are not upto mark on “social compliance.” The good news is that of the 55 factories included in the survey, ninety percent complied with standards regarding child labour. However, only a paltry 12 percent comply with the freedom of association standard and a miserable 36.3 percent on workplace environment standards. The brief report linked above is in an industry magazine and fails to paint the real picture of this notorious industry (readymade garments) where workers are badly treated, routinely cheated and made to feel powerless.

Read this report of a speech by Neil Kearney if you want the low-down on the urgency of the matter.

The poor figures are readilly understandable. One of the main stakeholders - the commerce ministry, as mentioned in a previous post, has had no interest whatsoever in compliance development. Rather it seems that the politicans keep holding out for lobbyists to get concessions on the global market. Productivity, quality, delivery, AND SOCIAL REPUTATION are the four pre-requisites of success in today’s global market according to Kearney - the Bangladeshi approach on the other hand is to just get out there with the begging-bowl and beg for concessions.