Labor Protection: What Can Bangladesh Learn from China?

Jun 14, 2013 5:00 AM ET
Summary: 

To most Chinese, what is happening in Bangladesh factories resembles what China has been struggling with during its period of industrialization over the past three decades. China has made great progress in protecting labor rights by strengthening public policy; integrating worker-protection systems into factories; increasing collaboration among western buyers, local NGOs, and suppliers; and empowering workers. Could this model be applied to Bangladesh?

This is part of a series of BSR articles on the tragedy in Bangladesh that will look at root causes, challenges, and how to prevent it from happening again.

Blog

By Jason Ho, Manager, Advisory Services, BSR

To most Chinese, what is happening in Bangladesh factories resembles what China has been struggling with during its period of industrialization over the past three decades.

In 1993, a fire that killed 84 workers in a Shenzhen toy factory attracted international media coverage of China’s working conditions and worker-safety issues. At that time, which preceded China’s labor, health, and safety regulations, we witnessed tragedies resulting from fire, chemical poisoning, karoshi (death by overwork), and suicides.

Since then, China has made great progress in protecting labor rights by strengthening public policy; integrating worker-protection systems into factories; increasing collaboration among western buyers, local NGOs, and suppliers; and empowering workers.

Although the absence of an effective collective bargaining mechanism and a robust labor union is being criticized by international media and labor groups, what China has done in the past 30 years can be a valuable source of lessons for Bangladesh on its journey to industrialization and urbanization...

To read the rest of this blog, including the three lessons that Bangladesh can take from China's reforms over the past 30 years, click here.

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