Just Say No To “Gloomy Pits Of Dickensian Misery”

from USA Today: Garment factories in Cambodia, one of the world’s poorest nations, aren’t gloomy pits of Dickensian misery. Instead, Cambodia is seeking to become the rare Third World country to develop economically while treating workers reasonably well.
Under a global trade regime that expired Jan. 1, quotas limited the amount retailers could buy from individual countries. In effect, that system forced companies such as Wal-Mart and Gap to spread orders across dozens of countries.
The quotas now are gone, leaving retailers free to buy from wherever they want. As a result, China’s share of the U.S. clothing market is projected to jump to 50% from today’s 16%, according to the World Trade Organization.
To carve out a market niche, Cambodia is billing itself as sweatshop-free. In December, a World Bank survey of 15 top buyers ranked its garment industry No. 1 in working conditions. So far, that has helped Cambodia avoid significant losses to China, despite having higher costs.
Cambodia’s sweatshop-free sales pitch is laser-focused on U.S. buyers. Gap is the Southeast Asian country’s largest customer, with purchases last year of about $350 million, according to Ken Loo of the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia.
Few countries would seem a less likely worker champion. Under the radical Khmer Rouge regime that ruled from 1975 to 1979, more than 1 million people were literally worked to death in a crazed bid to construct an agrarian utopia.



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.