Indian cheap labour obsession

In: Uncategorized

17 Jun 2008

It seems that British documentary film-makers are becoming obsessed with cheap labour in India. After the awful Blood, Sweat and T-Shirts on BBC (see 18 April 2008 and 14 May 2008 posts) it seems that Panorama has a programme on the topic next week while Channel 4 is planning one entitled The Devil Wears Primark (see 1 June 2008 post).

In a pre-emptive strike against possible criticism from Panorama it seems that Primark, a bargain clothes retailing chain, has cut ties with Indian suppliers that used child labour.

There seems to be little understanding that simply cutting such ties is likely to make the plight of poor Indians worse. Child labour is a symptom of extreme poverty rather than its cause.

It is reminiscent of the spoilt western fashionistas in Blood, Sweat and T-Shirts hectoring Indian workers about how their working conditions are “disgusting”. Indians are well aware that they are poor – the difficult part is finding ways to make them rich.

The broader context for this discussion is the feigned concern for developing country workers from the likes of Joseph Stiglitz (see 6 May 2008 post).

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