When I was writing this article, the death toll in a building collapsed happened in Bangladesh had reached 300 people and according to the several news that I had been listening to, it was predicted that the number would be very likely to increase.
A day before the incident happened, it was reported that there had been a warning for not entering the building due to the improper condition of the building. Unfortunately, such a warning was ignored and workers were then insisted to go to work as usual. And the bleak incident happened: the building collapsed, trapping many people within its debris.
Furthermore, when BBC journalist interviewed one of the ministers there, it was clear from the interview that there is a lack of self-awareness from building-owners to comply with safety procedure; hence contributing in an increasing of the possibility of building collapse incident. But, what I would like to write in this article is not about how to build a safe building. Rather, I would like to emphasize about another aspect of the incident: a global responsibility in a globalized world.
Globalization: free market and global responsibility
It is clear that the garment factories there are very important to drive the economy in Bangladesh. But, should the end justify the means? Should the safety aspects of the people be sacrificed in order to achieve the most probable profit? In this article, I would try to explain several things that I thought improper, not just for the building but about the system there.
As a matter of fact, it is also reported that in Bangladesh, many well-known label have used Bangladesh’s garment factories to produce their clothes. Just by giving their label, the price will increase significantly; hence giving much profit to the label-owners. In contrast, the workers who actually work to produce the clothes still face hard circumstances and also improper working condition. How could this actually happen?
This is the work of globalization and the free market. Once nations are becoming more borderless, companies are free to place the factory outside their origin country if the location can offer several advantages for the company. Gaining profit is then not that hard for such companies because investing in developing countries will automatically increase their income. It can be so because it is often happened that such a country offers cheap labors in order to lift up their economic condition. The consequence is easy: since the companies should not have to pay high salary for the workers, their income will significantly increase. Both the parties are benefited: the company will gain more income and so does the country where the factories are placed.
Globalization is indeed a very good story if there is a mutual cooperation among the people involved, namely it is not just about the government and the company but also about the worker. If the workers in such countries are given basic health insurance, well-paid salary, and other benefits, it does seem fair and good. Moreover, it is not just about placing factories in a country but also about developing people and this section will be further explained below.
But, the story of globalization can be very bleak if it cannot propose a proper scheme to protect the workers involved, as happened in Bangladesh. It does seem like a government and the companies who expropriate the workers in order to extracting cash to their own pocket. They cunningly utilize globalization without have any interest in developing people and acknowledge them not as humans but as slaves. Free market should also be a fair market but the reality often says the opposite.
This is why I would like to propose that globalization is indeed not only about free market but also about global responsibility. I was then remembered when I was in my third-year in my current study, I had asked a professor coming from Netherlands for giving a product engineering lecture: in a globalized world, what can be done by a pharmaceutical company to bear a responsibility once it has patented its invention that has something to do with endemic disease in a poor country, let say AIDS in Africa region? The answer was clear: the company can actually have a policy to compensate the price of the drugs so it will become more affordable for the people living in a region engulfed by poverty.
This is the condition that should actually be applied across the world. Companies can gain benefits by free market or by patenting their inventions in order to incentivize their hard-work and thus gain royalty. But there is still another important task that should be made: companies that are playing in a globalized world should also bear a responsibility about current events across the world, especially events that directly affect themselves. Hence, in Bangladesh case, renowned clothing companies that use the service of the workers there should also bear the responsibility. They can help workers in regard of curing them and give proper compensation for those who survive.
But, this is not just about giving compensation. In the future, it should also deal with the sustainability aspect of the further project in order to avoid the same case to happen. They can appoint several experts in regard of building safety and also to ensure that the SOP is perfectly applied. They have also to regularly check the condition of the workers, building, and many other aspects to ensure that nothing is sacrificed just to extract more money from cheap labors.
Global responsibility is not only about how the works charged by a company are perfectly accomplished. As human beings, workers are also in need for appreciation and development. The workers should be trained and also well-paid and their career should also be promoted according to their capacity and capability. A company cannot hold the position of the workers for a long time without giving any hope to better future.
This is actually in line with the goals stated by United Nations in Millennium Development Goals. As poverty becomes the main concern in Millennium Development Goals, it is likely to place the burden on the companies playing in globalization and free market. Once they can penetrate the economy in a country, they actually have an opportunity to change the condition from poverty to prosperity instead of more impoverishing the country. And this can be done by investing it not just in capital expenditure but also to invest in human development program.
A Bangladesh case is indeed a good lesson for people across the globe that globalization is not only about free market and capitalism. Globalization should be made more inclusive by bringing in global responsibility as the mode to develop others and also as a moral responsibility that we do not utilize people to gain the best profits probable, as has been pointed out by Kant, a renowned philosopher: human beings cannot be used as means to justify any kind of ends. Human beings should be dignified and globalization should not lessen their value just because a company wants to do so. It is about our responsibility to move together to make this world better and just for human beings.