How much did your T-shirt cost?

T Shirt

Aussies wear T-shirts. We wear them at the beach, or around the house, or under a shirt when we go out. So we buy lots of them. And we like to pick up a bargain.

And we’re not alone – T-shirts seem to be popular all over the world.

So how much did your last T-shirt cost?

Getting a bargain?

Not many clothes are made in western countries. Most of our clothes are made overseas, where labour is much cheaper. That helps make them cheap. And everyone likes a bargain.

But did you know that:

  • over the past 8 years, more than 1800 garment workers in Bangladesh have died in building collapses, factory fires, or other preventable circumstances?
  • children work in slave-like conditions in some parts of the textile industry in India and the cotton industry in Uzbekistan?
  • many of the famous sports shoes brands employ young women who must endure low wages and long hours in dangerous and hostile conditions?

Deal or no deal?

So it seems that shoddy practices and unsafe working conditions are another reason why our T-shirts and sports shoes are so cheap. We get cheap clothes, and garment workers pay with their poverty or even their lives.

And unfortunately, it is mostly the best known brands that have the worst practices.

But there are movements for change

Rather than boycott clothing made in countries with poor labour practices, which will only increase poverty, companies can work together to support positive change. And many are.

Signing up to fairer deals for workers

There are a number of international non-profit organisations which assist companies to work with the local communities to guarantee better working conditions in poorer countries.

Buy ethically

A number of ethical buying guides are available for US, UK, Europe and Australia. We can choose to buy, where possible, clothing from more ethical brands and retailers.

Advocate for change

Purchasing more ethically-sourced garments will be more effective if we back it up with letters to the less ethical companies.

In it for the long haul

Change won’t be instant, but if you think unsafe and unfair working conditions are too high a price to pay for cheap clothing, then keep your eyes open for news on which clothing companies are supporting positive change.

I think this must be part of what it means to follow Jesus. I didn’t know much about all this before, but now I do, I can’t see how I can ignore it.

Read more

I have written in more detail about the problem, which countries and companies need most to improve, organisations that are working for a more ethical clothing trade, and ethical shopping guides, at Ethical Clothing. Check it out.

Picture: MorgueFile

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