Violent Storms and Cheap T-Shirts: Climate Change and Profits in Bangladesh’s Readymade Garment Industry

Anna Plowman
  plowman.anna@gmail.com
  

Abstract

This research examines the possibility of a relationship between climate change and profitability in Bangladesh’s readymade garment (RMG) industry. It investigates specifically the phenomenon of climate-induced labour migration and how this may affect competition for employment in urban RMG production zones. This research was carried out through fieldwork interviews conducted with migrant female RMG employees living in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

The findings of this study conclude that climate-related environmental changes constitute a significant migratory push factor, pressuring some women to move to urban areas and seek employment in RMG factories. The push factor of climate change is intertwined with the pull factor of potential RMG employment, and these are both tightly related to economic hardships and the limited employment opportunities available to women in Bangladesh.

With the use of Marx’s theory of the industrial reserve army, this is contextualised within a discussion about the role that such a climate-mobilised labour army could play with regards to the wages, working conditions, and profitability of the RMG factories. This issue is framed in light of core-periphery dynamics as they relate to global disparities behind the garment commodity production chain and the causes and impacts of climate change. In light of these dynamics, I assert that climate injustice and labour exploitation may reinforce and perpetuate each other, and that this phenomenon may have detrimental repercussions for the global working class and other climate-affected peoples.

Exploitation - Marxism - climate change - inequality - Bangladesh - Accumulation - Vulnerability - profit rate