Beyond Boycotts: Gender, Globalisation and Garment Factories in Bangladesh

Photo: Weronika via Flickr CC 2.0
Photo: Weronika via Flickr CC 2.0

In Bangladesh, four million people work in textile factories. Their work accounts for 80% of their country’s annual exports. Yet they work in extremely dangerous conditions. It’s been a year since 1,100 workers died in two incidents of fire and structural collapse in April 2013. My post explores this tragedy through a sociological lens, looking at empirical studies of the local working conditions and social reality in which garment workers live. These tragedies are an ugly reminder of the unequal economic relations that sustain globalisation. One of the visceral Western response to these tragedies may be to cry for a boycott of these companies. Sociological research shows that the resolution is much less tidy. The story behind this is not simply about corporate greed. It is a tale about gender inequality and the social costs of economic mobility. Let’s start by remembering the 2013 tragedy. Continue reading Beyond Boycotts: Gender, Globalisation and Garment Factories in Bangladesh

Electricity use

In late August, a Senate inquiry found that many Australian households are struggling to keep up with the rising price of electricity, particularly young families, who have difficulties bringing down their power use during peak times. The inquiry notes that this forces families to choose between paying for their utlities versus their housing bills and groceries.

Over the past three years, electricity prices have risen by 40 percent. While the overwhelming majority of electricity customers are residential (88%), over 70 percent of the electricity use comes from businesses. The cost is being fed back to residential clients. The four major factors affecting the hiking prices include: ‘industry labour costs and executive salaries, dividend payments to state government utility owners, unnecessary infrastructure spending or “gold plating” and “opportunistic” profit-taking by operators.’

Link via SBS News.

Political systems in #sociology: We study four types of legal authority: 1) #Totalitarianism: the #government regulates every facet of people’s daily lives. Schools, the media and other public institutions only reflect the official view of the Goverment and there is heavy censorship. North Korea, China and Nazi Germany are examples. 2) #Authoritarianism: The state has absolute power and cannot be removed easily. The law is highly conservative with strict sentences for crime and heavy fines for transgressions such as littering and smoking. There are heavy restrictions on human rights, such as freedom of religion, dress, and sexuality. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and the military factions in Congo are typical examples. 3) #Monarchy: A system run by a single family from one generation to the next and legitimated by tradition. Many monarchies today are largely symbolic and operate alongside a democratic system. This includes the UK, Sweden, Spain and Denmark. 4) #Democracy: Government is elected by the public and #authority is overseen by the #law. As with the other three types there are different variations. Scandinavian democracies support a robust social welfare system through heavy taxes. The state intervenes in public life by ensuring a relatively higher redistribution of wealth. Liberal democracies such as in the USA and Australia are governed by principles of a free market. The government is less likely to restrict economic competition between businesses, on public goods and infrastructure. #SocialWelfare has less scope to address social inequality. #politics #socialscience #economy #power #education #society #socialstudies #socialinequality #visualsociology

Japan’s Disposable Workforce: Alienation, Suicide and Social Responsibility

By Zuleyka Zevallos

Shiho Fukada’s Pulitzer Centre project on Japan’s “disposable workers” focuses on people who are precariously employed in casual and “dead end” jobs. They are underpaid, working long hours but without any of the benefits or sense of stability of full time employment. This affects people who are homeless as well as white collar workers who are driven to suicide due to mental and physical exhaustion. I see that Fukada’s photo essay offers an insightful visual critique of economic progress and the rapid increase of an “underclass” in one of the world’s most advanced societies. I argue that Fukada’s work might be understood through the sociological concept of anomie, a term that describes the social alienation that follows a society’s shift in morals and values. In this case, I explore how a cultural change in attitude means that workers are less valued in Japan, leading to socio-economic and mental health problems. I draw a comparison between the Japanese and the Australian workforce. I conclude by showing how sociologists seek to help governments, employers, developers and community organisations work together to better support a sustainable and ethical economic future.

Shiho Fukada via Pulitzer Centre
Shiho Fukada via Pulitzer Centre

Continue reading Japan’s Disposable Workforce: Alienation, Suicide and Social Responsibility