Why mass production is cheap
What can politics do?
Is the textile industry more vulnerable to exploitation and poor wages because of so much human labor involved?
No. The wage costs are 15 to 18 percent of the final price, nothing more. Machines play a big role everywhere. You have to see the masses of textiles that are being sold these days. Even if a company sews twelve million shirts - given the 1.3 billion Chinese population that is almost nothing. But it doesn't work without human work.
Would the problem of working conditions be over if consumers paid a few euros more for each pair of jeans?
The consumer is also to blame for the immense price pressure in the industry. I realize that not everyone can spend 19.95 euros on a T-shirt, but this stinginess is cool mentality cannot go on in the long run. My maxim is: if you buy cheap, you often have to buy twice.
Some love to be able to afford every trend. Others can only dream of branded clothes.
Sure, a Hartz IV recipient has to pay attention to every penny. But consumers are not using their power. If it was more about quality than just price, the seamstresses would have better conditions too.
Do people consume more thoughtlessly?
Yes it is. Not everywhere in Europe, but Germans pay special attention to the price. On the one hand organic food is booming here, on the other hand cheap textiles. Although the buyers might suspect that many offers are not worth their money - or that not everything in production could have been right.
If you buy branded clothing, can you be sure that the staff will not be treated as they were once under Manchester capitalism?
Yes I'm sure.
The manager of the Kik chain recently claimed in an interview with Tagesspiegel that cheap and branded goods come from the same factories abroad, with branded products only the fabrics are more expensive.
I do not believe that. Many of our companies have their own production facilities on site. They couldn't distinguish an Adidas company in China from one in Germany, only the employees look a little different. They have their work breaks, their canteens, their clean toilets.
There is more information about the origin of the product on the packaging of frozen fish than on a coating that costs 300 euros. Will that change at some point?
I don't think that's the point. Today it is already written, Made in Bangladesh ’in many items of clothing, that does not mean that production was generally poor. People only get information about things that really interest them - cell phones, for example. This will probably never be the case with textiles.
Can politics do anything?
It must ensure through the World Trade Organization (WTO) and through bilateral trade agreements that social standards are complied with. The other party has to do something too, has to control its economy and punish violations. And a manufacturer has to turn his back on the country if grievances cannot be remedied.
Then orders are placed in cheaper Cambodia. That is the logic of globalization.
No one is currently doing it cheaper than in Bangladesh. The alternatives are clear. Because Asia is changing - China is actually too expensive, Vietnam stands for top quality rather than mass-produced goods.
Would you say that pants or a sweater, Made in Bangladesh, shouldn't be bought?
No. That would be discrimination. Not all factory owners there are criminals. Such a boycott would end up affecting the common people.
A seamstress in East Germany earns 9.47 euros an hour. Why is it not possible to produce T-shirts at the tariffs in this country?
Then the price would be much too high. We are not competitive with our unit labor costs - the employees also want old-age provision, health protection and long-term care insurance. Such non-wage costs are lower in less developed countries. Still, because there, too, one recognizes the value of social security.
What role does the textile industry still play in Germany?
Garment production has been globalized since the 1950s, starting with Portugal or Italy. However, companies like Bugatti still employ around 1,000 people here - for small-scale production, development, and cuts. We have a total of almost 120,000 employees in Germany.
The interview was conducted by Carsten Brönstrup
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