In June 2016 15 students from the School of Business, Economics and Law at the University of Gothenburg had the chance to visit the world’s eighth most populated country, Bangladesh. They aimed at getting a better understanding and knowledge of Bangladesh’s textile industry, covering issues regarding economic, social and environmental sustainability. Read here the previous blog post on the expectations and preparations for the journey!
Text: Students from School of Business Economics and Law, University of Gothenburg
It has now been a few months since we re-took Swedish soil after two fantastic weeks in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Two weeks packed with activities and meetings with interesting people and organizations. The purpose of the trip was that 15 students from the School of Business Economics and Law would get experience and with our own eyes see the situation of workers in the textile industry in Bangladesh, and to further spread knowledge about the problems and opportunities in the industry.
We arrived in Dhaka early in the morning and a few hours later it was time for the first meeting. The Swedish Ambassador in Dhaka received us and gave us an introduction to what Sweden is doing in the country and what it looks like for the workers in the textile industry. During the remaining days we got the opportunity to meet among other politicians, university students, trade unions, the ILO and organizations dealing with safety in the factories. In addition to our meetings, we also visited three textile factories and the Hazaribagh area, where the leather industry is based.
The 15 students ready to go.
The three factories are working in different ways when it comes to safety, working environment and conditions for the workers. The owners of the respective plants were of different opinions when it came to pay and how safety should be handled. Minimum wages in the textile industry is about SEK 500 a month which is about a quarter of what is required for a minimum standard of living. When it came to safety there was one of the factories that was considering buying fire doors but since it was very expensive, the owner chose to put the money on buying the employees fruit and on special occasions also food.
In Hazaribagh tanneries leather is handled from animal hides and processed into leather that is sold for the production of bags, jackets and shoes. The number of tanneries in Hazaribagh are extremely numerous and chemicals from production runs down to the river in the area where the locals fish and wash their clothes. The Bangladesh Government has allocated a new area for leather production, in which the regulation of chemicals into the rivers will be adjusted when a sewage treatment plant will be installed.
The impressions from the trip are extremely numerous. We saw a lot of misery but also much joy and hope that conditions will improve. Bangladesh as a country has a lot of potential and with support from major clothing companies and other stakeholders there can be better conditions for the workers in the textile industry, and also for the country at large.