Introduction In 2013 the Rana Plaza, a building housingseveral clothing factories making clothes to export to Europe and America,collapsed (Manik & Yardley, 2017). About 134 people died and more than1,000 of the 2,500 workers were injured. This happened only five months after aterrible fire at a similar factory, which led multinational brands to promiseto improve safety in the country’s garment industry. The article confirms thatan investigation found building codes thatwere violated as well as a structural fault in the building.
Nowadaysmost people know about the bad working conditions in for example Bangladesh,but consumers still purchase clothes made by child labour and workers barelyearning a penny. There are labour activists in Bangladesh but the government takesthese people into custody as soon as they start talking (Abrams & Sattar,2017). The labour rights groups state in the article that they believe thegovernment is making sure workers don’t talk by detaining harmless people.After the incident of the Rana Plaza, business owners formed two alliances whoare devoted to make sure workers get better working conditions which are: theaccord, guided by H&M, and the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety,including Gap and Walmart (Abrams & Sattar, 2017). Thiscan also be related to the prison labour that is happening.
Here inmates arepaid less than a dollar an hour to produce any sort of product from mattressesto road signs (The Economist, 2017). The program pays more than the averagekitchen work in prisons so the waiting list is long. Critics have pointed outthe moral hazard that is generated when profit comes from punishment, but whatmost people don’t know is that prison labour has been going on since 1979 (TheEconomist, 2017). Theseare problems that are only growing and need addressing. The average persondoesn’t care who made their sweater, but in the meantime these people continuetheir work in bad conditions with the risk of an incident like the Rana Plazarepeating itself. The question to what extent the use of child labour inBangladesh could be morally legitimate arises. In this paper a literaturereview will be conducted, researching if these markets are morally legitimate.The literature used in this paper consisted of academic sources on factorsinfluencing working conditions and morally responsible behaviour.
Thenext section of the paper will be the descriptive and analytic part, discussingthe factors that have an influence on working conditions and why customers arecomfortable with the fact that products are made under poor conditions. Following,what morally responsible behaviour entails and how we agree on what morallyacceptable behaviour is. After that, in the opinion section, first theconnection between poverty and the likelihood that a child will work will bediscussed. Then, arguments for and against the use of child labour in forprofit organizations will be made as well as a recommendation to whether or notthis kind of employment should be allowed. Lastly, in the research section, ahypothesis will be stated for possible further research. Next, in theconclusion the main points of this paper will be repeated and an answer will begiven to the central question. Descriptive/analytic First it is important to discussthe factors that have an influence on peoples working conditions.
The generalbelief is that multinational companies themselves are accountable for the workingcircumstances in their supply chains, even concerning the suppliers that are lawfullyindependent (Dänzer, 2011). There is very few international law that controlsthe actions of global firms in developing nations, and when laws are present theyare not binding. Dänzer explores whether multinational enterprises are morallyresponsible for the working conditions in their supply chains. She describesthat there are two main concepts of responsibility which are outcomeresponsibility, meaning the responsibility that companies carry for theoutcomes of their former actions, and remedial responsibility, which is the responsibilityof companies to put certain bad situations right. Outcomeresponsibility is present under the first condition that the company has insome way contributed to the outcome. This is the case because through themultinational enterprises purchasing policy the company gives strong incentivesfor either wanting good or bad working conditions in their factories (Dänzer,2011). For example, when the purchasing policy is to produce as cost saving aspossible, that won’t encourage high salaries for workers or good workingconditions. Other conditions are that the company has power over its actions,there is a connection between the cause and the effect, and that there werealternative actions for the firm to take (Dänzer, 2011).
According to Dänzer, allof these requirements are fulfilled, meaning that there is indeed outcomeresponsibility. Dänzer states that remedial responsibility is relevant whenthere is a situation that is in need of remedy, in this case the bad conditionsin the supply chains. To conclude, outcome and remedial responsibility arepresent which means that companies are morally responsible for the workingconditions in their supply chains. This makes them the factor that has aninfluence on these working conditions and the factor that should work to improvethem. Despitethe fact that global companies themselves may be responsible for the badworking conditions that their products are made in, the consumers are the reasonthat the companies exists, meaning that they still buy the products. Therefore,why are customers comfortable with the fact that the products they buy are madeunder poor conditions? In 2001, Carrigan and Attalla did research on thismatter. They expressed that what seems to be happening is that althoughconsumers express preparedness to make ethical decisions, in reality, communalresponsibility is not the most powerful criteria in their decision making.
Carrigan and Attalla asked their respondents to name factors that influencedtheir purchasing decisions, the result was that price, value, brand image andfashion trends are the deciding factors. The respondents in their research repeatedlyadmitted to knowing companies were not acting ethically but felt they couldn’tdo anything about it or were only willing to change their purchasing decisionwhen this wouldn’t cause them any trouble. Carrigan and Attalla found the opinionto be that a business like Nike, which has a bad ethical background, is not viewedas unethical because they deliver jobs and profits which are good for theeconomy. It became evident that respondents only cared about particular socialissues.
For example, animal suffering mattered much more to them than therainforest or working conditions (Carrigan & Attalla, 2001). What therespondents were keen to point out is that if they had more money, they would boycottunethical companies, change their purchasing decisions and be willing to paymore for an ethically produced product (Carrigan & Attalla, 2001). Itcan be concluded that consumers try to ignore the ethical problem when theycan, but besides consumers, other stakeholders that can be influenced areshareholders, governments, employees and the wider community, which are moreactively concerned with ethical behaviour (Carrigan & Attalla, 2001). However,what entails morally responsible behaviour? In the article of Ardichvili,Mitchell, and Jondle (2009) an experiment is conducted to find features ofethical organizational cultures that entail what the majority of people see asethical behaviour. These characteristics are: Mission- and values- driven,which entails the transparency of mission and values, shown in ethical principlesand conduct; stakeholders balance, which entails the equality of allstakeholders in the decision-making; leadership effectiveness, meaning that theethical culture starts at the top and is carried on by example; processintegrity, which is the commitment to quality and fairness in the firms’ people,processes, and products; and lastly, long-term perspective, means that the missionshould be put before profit and long-term goals before short-term goals(Ardichvili, Mitchell, & Jondle, 2009). These characteristics suggest thatpeople do actually care about ethical guidelines, fairness, and more. However,the fact that people care about being ethical does not mean that everyone hasthe same opinion about ethical behaviour and how it should be implemented. Here,the issue arises to how we agree on what is morally acceptable.
To solve thisproblem there are laws and regulations made. Although not everyone agrees onthe same in regard to what is morally acceptable, some ground rules are stated withwhich the majority agrees. For the matter of what is morally acceptable, themajority speaks. Often it is said that whether or not people behave ethical isdependent on how their supervisors or ‘bosses’ behave. In2013, Resick, Hargis, Shao, en Dust examined whether or not ethical leadershipis related to negative moral equity judgments of workplace misbehaviour andrelated to positive moral equity judgments about organizational citizenshipbehaviour. From their experiment they find that employees working for leaderswho are more ethical in their leadership are more negative towards deviance inthe workplace and more positive towards organizational citizenship and findthis more morally suitable. Concluding, this means that when wanting toinfluence ethical behaviour, one should do this starting at the leaders of acompany.
The leaders will then positively influence the behaviour of theiremployees and as a result people can start to develop a more united opinion onwhat ethical behaviour entails. Opinion In order to make a decision onwhether or not child labour should be allowed, you have to think about thecauses of the child labour. If it would be prohibited, what would theconsequences be for the families that have working children. Amin, Quayes, andRives (2004) did research on poverty, years of education, household size andmore as determinants of child labour in Bangladesh. First, they found acultural factor for child labour which is that the parents dread their childrenwill become idle when not working. What they found was that with an increase inthe household size, the chance of the children working increases, but having amale head of the house decreases the probability of a child working. Highereducated parents are less likely to send their children to work, this confirmsthat poorer families cannot afford not to send their children to work. Whatthis means is that when child labour is prohibited, poverty will increase,mainly because if the children aren’t allowed to work this will result in aneven lower household income.
Acommon argument against child labour would be that there is the assumption thatchild labour may cause severe illness. Alam, Amin, and Rives (2012) used surveydata to examine whether or not illness or injuries associated to occupationalhazard are determined by whether or not a child works in the export industry inBangladesh. They find that only 5% of more than 200 million working childrenworldwide, up until the age of 14, work in export industries. And as for thatfive percent, they find that working in the export sector does not make a childmore likely to become ill or injured. Alam, Amin, and Rives (2012) state thatas opposed to prohibiting child labour, the countries that import these goodsshould support these developing nations and ensure that there is workplacesafety in child labour industries. Butwhat would happen when you ask the employees of factories with bad workingconditions, also called sweatshops, what they want in regard to workplacesafety. In a recent article from Powell and Zwolinski (2012) it is expressedthat when employees were asked if they would give some of their wage up to improveworking conditions, they said they were not willing to do this.
This shows thatthe wages in these factories are so low that even the employees themselves don’twant to complain about the conditions. There is not yet a system founded that makesit possible to get higher wages and better working conditions without hurtingthe workers (Powell & Zwolinski, 2012). Anargument for the use of child labour would be that prohibiting it would notimprove the economic situation in the countries and families will become poorermeaning that these children have less chance to a good future. It would probablynot even change the behaviour of consumers. In an article exploring whether theethical concern of consumers influences the code of conduct of a company tomeet this matter, namely Gap, they find that even though consumers recognizethe problem of ethical matters, they care more about factors like price andquality ((Iwanow, McEachern, & Jeffrey, 2005). This means that companies won’tchange where they manufacture when the consumers will buy their products eitherway. As a result, companies will produce with the lowest production costspossible, which is off course in development countries and sometimes with childlabour.
Concluding, if we can’t change consumers purchase decision, there is nouse in banning child labour. Itis also not just the responsibility of import companies to stop child labour. Thedeveloping countries themselves need to take action, which is not happening enough.In 2014, Bolivia approved a law that allowed children from the age of ten toundertake independent work – excluding wage (Dillon, 2015).
Dillon states thatthe world trade organization is the step towards trading in the global economy.For a country to gain entry, they must prove they are committed to gain freetrade. There are barely any efforts that make sure a country has to deal withhuman rights issues, such as child labour, before they can enter in the world tradeorganization (Dillon, 2015). If these rules were present, this could mean thestart of a decrease in child labour. Oneargument against child labour that does still remain a problem is workplace safety.There should be more regulations on building structures and check ups on thesafety of workers. A recommendation on allowing child labour would be thatnothing much can be done until the countries and enterprises start to take action.
The children won’t be any better off without the work and as stated earlier, therewas no prove found that working in the export sector causes illness or injury. Itis possible that the children would be better off without the child labour butthen there would have to be some kind of development aid to help the economy ofthese countries.Research A provisional answer to the extentto which the use of child labour in Bangladesh could be morally legitimate wouldbe that, as long as there is no danger involved, no consequences for the livesof the children that could be prevented were they not working, or any enforcementfor children to work, it would be morally legitimate.
Also, when there arestill many consumers that buy the products made by child labour, there can notbe said that it is not morally legitimate, because everyone is involved. Limitationsof this research would be external, this paper is mainly about Bangladesh butthis is not the only place in the world where child labour occurs. Also moreinformation on the long term consequences on the lives of these children wouldbe useful for further research. An interesting hypothesis would be; the futureof working children would have more potential when prohibiting child labour withinexport and import countries combined with development aid. This hypothesiswould examine whether it can be justified that children work at a young ageinstead of being in school. Expected is that when these children are able to beat their full potential they would be better off without child labour, but beforethat happens the economy needs to get a chance to develop more. Conclusion The goal of the research was to examineto what extent the use of child labour in Bangladesh could be morally legitimate.
The problems that were addressed were about ethical behaviour in general and inconnection with child labour and consumer behaviour in relation to the ethicalor unethical behaviour of global companies. The result of this research ismainly that consumers are indifferent about whether companies behave ethical ornot, but ethical leadership is, however, mimicked by employees. It is unlikelythat global companies will undertake action when they are still profiting fromtheir production with child labour. Also there is no relation found betweensevere illness or injury and children working in the export industry.
To answerthe central question on the moral legitimacy of child labour in Bangladesh, it cannot be seen as overall morally legitimate, but despite that it is generallyaccepted since no major action has been undertaken.