On 24 April, 2013, over 1,100 people died after the structural collapse of an 8-story building, mostly made up of garment factories, in Bangladesh. Afterwards, there was a lot of condemnation of the working conditions in this factory; many criticised not just the low wages being paid (approx. €38 a month), but also the complicity of the West in buying the products produced within such substandard conditions. We’ll come back to that.
But first, let’s turn to another story about modern day Bangladesh, one of huge growth and development. It’s GDP has gone from 31 billion in 1992 to 195 billion in 2016. In the same timeframe, life expectancy has gone from 59 years old to over 70. While it is still an incredibly poor country, with a large number of people living below the $1.90 poverty line, this figure has fallen from 44% of the population in 1991 to less than 20% in 2010 (based on 2011 Purchasing Power Parity).
So, story 1: bad. Story 2: good. The problem with this simple classification is that the two stories are intimately linked, and story 2 may not have been possible without the conditions which led story 1 to occur.