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Vietnamese Garment Industry Shows Cause for Major Concern

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A recently released report from MCL Global indicates that the Vietnamese garment industry is causing severe environmental impacts and increasingly exploitative incidents among its work force.

“The Sustainable Sourcing Map” published by the research organization implied that extremely poor levels of safety and health were found in the Vietnamese garment sector, alongside several instances of excessive overtime. Nonetheless, the country is proving a magnet for investors from neighboring countries where wages are rising such as Taiwan, China and Hong Kong.

The countries included in MCL Global’s Sustainable Sourcing Map are China, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Turkey, India, Indonesia, Taiwan, Thailand, Pakistan, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Philippines, Myanmar. The report covers the environmental, labor rights and economic impacts of the garment industries in all included countries, with a detailed summary of the reasons behind investing in and sourcing from these countries. The major problem highlighted in terms of labor rights is that although wages may be rising, they amount is marginal, and the conditions for workers are only deteriorating.

In Vietnam, the wages for the garment manufacturing sector are predicted to rise by 15 percent, but not necessarily for the laborers on the lowest rungs on the industry’s ladder.  No only are the health and safety concerns in the country escalating and overtime exceeding legal limits, but the industry’s main industrial parks in Ho Chi Minh City are discharging over 6,700 tons of waste daily. Up to 2,000 tons of this waste are industrial toxins. With the increased investment in the local garment industry and politically charged increase in export-led growth, this level of pollution doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.

After the globally covered tragic incident of Rana Plaza in 2013 that raised general awareness of the injustices and exploitation of the garment industry have caused manufacturers in Bangladesh and India to come under scrutiny, many are turning to their Eastern Asian counterparts in Myanmar, Cambodia and Vietnam. Vietnam has in fact experiences a 13.14 percent growth in bookings for apparel shipments compared to India’s 7.5 percent growth, while Chinese factories are slowing down due to rising wages. As the global landscape of the garment manufacturing industry changes, the exploitation it has fostered may only escalate and impact different regions if not addressed by consumers, buyers and large name brands alike.

Image: Ika-Ink

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