So there’s this argument that I hear all of the time:
The garment industry comes to a region or country and, yes, it has loads of problems. The workers aren’t paid well and they’re overworked. The working conditions are dreadful and no place for an adult to work let alone children, which also work there. BUT there aren’t a lot of opportunities in this country and the industry allows the workers and the country to grab hold of the first rung of the global economic ladder. The countries main resource is cheap labor. Over time wages and workers rights go up along with the cost of the goods being produced. Other, better paying, jobs move in behind the garment industry as the nation reaches for the next rung on the ladder. Eventually the price of labor is too much for the garment industry and it has to leave for cheaper shores. No matter, because these new jobs are better. Peace and democracy be upon you.
Folks point to Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, and the United States as examples of this path from garment industry to better industries.
But what about Mexico?
China replaced Mexico as the top supplier of textiles and apparel to the US, and continues to grow while Mexico’s market share falls.
In 2007, China’s clothing and textile exports to the US grew by 36%, while Mexico’s fell by 7%, according to Canaintex (Cámara Nacional de la Industria Textil).
By 2008 China’s share of the US import market for textiles and clothing was at 35.1% in value terms, while Mexico had dropped to the fourth largest supplier.
Mexico has also been badly affected by the economic crisis. In a press conference in the end of 2008, the president of Canaintex, David Garcia said: “The textile industry is one of the sectors most hard-hit by the crisis. It’s gone badly for us. A lot of companies have closed and a lot of employment has ended. We must act quickly in order to save our sector.”
Did I miss the news about all of the great jobs flowing into Mexico on the heels of the garment industry?
What about Nepal, which recently witnessed the closing of its last garment factory?
It is bold of former Finance Secretary Mr Rameshwor Khanal to speak out on the fall of the last standing garment factory in Nepal – an industry which once generated a third of Nepal’s exports and employed arguably just under a 100,000 Nepali men and women. The closure of Surya Nepal Garments is indeed an end of an era
Sometimes the closure of the last garment factory isn’t a thing to celebrate. It doesn’t always mean that an economy has moved to bigger and better things.
For every Taiwan there is a Nepal.