Ethiopia; the next place for wild garment capitalism


In the «race to the bottom» madness that drives the dark side of the garment industry, Ethiopia is the next stage. The next place to go seeking cheap labour costs: » These are mostly women, who’ve taken long, dusty bus rides here from small villages and waited for hours to apply for jobs with a base salary of about $25 a month».

«Lured by tax incentives, promises of infrastructure investment, and ultracheap labor, countries the Western world once outsourced production to, particularly China and Sri Lanka, are now the middlemen ramping up production here for Guess, Levi’s, H&M, and other labels. These industrialists like Ethiopia because the government wants them as much as they want cheap labor and tax breaks. The Hawassa Industrial Park’s inauguration is only the most recent part of a vast centralized scheme: Since 2014, Ethiopia has opened four giant, publicly owned industrial parks; it plans eight more by 2020».

«One Ethiopian college graduate, who doesn’t want her name used because she fears reprisal, describes falling into a depression during a six-week stint supervising 40 women on an Indochine line producing trousers. “Whenever workers didn’t meet a goal, the bosses would yell,” she says. In response, the women slowed down, hid in the bathroom, or went outside for air instead of working faster. Several times, she says, she witnessed a seamstress being hit on the back. When they had to work on their only day off or stay late, she adds, they didn’t receive the overtime promised. (Pattar says he’s unaware of any pay issues or physical attacks.) “I told my bosses, ‘The employees are not trained or qualified. You can’t expect them to deliver 120 pieces per hour. If you push them, they will just damage the products.’ ” She quit and now works at the front desk of a hotel, where she earns $63 a month, slightly more than at the factory».

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