“It is easier to share the recipe, than shipping cakes and biscuits” – John Maynard Keynes
The same holds true to the textile industry. Countries that import textiles and clothes suffer from loss of jobs and a lack of independence in production. On the flip side, countries that are engaged in mass production suffer from waning resources, pressure on local infrastructure,health epidemics and dwindling local arts and crafts.
Let’s take a look at the many economic, social and environmental benefits of supporting local textiles.
Why Should We Support Local Textile Industries?
Economic Impacts of the Textile Industry
At the level of the local economy, the direct benefits include; improved economies, increased GDP and more employment.
1| Increase employment
Whether yours is a country that imports or exports textiles, global supply chains curb employment within the industry. Importing countries reduce or eradicate manufacturing jobs whereas exporting countries reduce the need for design, marketing and retail jobs.
2| Manufacture to Increase Local Economies
On average and in most textile producing countries, wages in the textile and clothing industry are higher than for most manufacturing jobs (e.g. in dairy, leather, wood processing etc.). Although this accounts for about half the manufacturing average wage, it suggests that the textiles and clothing industry is a step up the value chain in the industrial ladder.
3| Empower Women with Higher Paying Jobs
As much as most studies show a big gender and equity bias against women in the textile and clothing industry, where women are paid less and working conditions are often worse, higher employment levels are often in their favour. For example, Bangladesh employs about 85% women, China 70% women and Cambodia 90% women in the garment industry. These women are often paid more than other jobs in agriculture and domestic jobs. In Bangladesh, the union leaders in the garment industry increasingly qualified women.
4| Increase your Countries GDP
According to the Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers Union (SACTWU), approximately 2,000 – 3,000 South Africans had been losing jobs in the textile every year due to an influx of cheaper clothing from Asia. In 15 years a total of about 150,000 jobs were lost. Like in most garment producing countries garment workers are mostly women and often single mothers that are the bread winners. In a country that has high unemployment rates, these jobs are important for the society and especially for women and children.
Socio-Cultural Impacts of Not Supporting Local
1| Suffering of Indigenous Arts
With the advent of fast fashion, the cycle of textiles is so globally interlaced, such that they eliminate indigenous opportunities. China, India and Bangladesh are the world’s factories mainly supplying to developed nations such as Europe and USA. Both exporter and importer countries lose their indigenous arts as global supply chains standardise the way we view fashion.
2| The Vicious Cycle of Fast Fashion
Garment producing nations have increased pressure to produce extremely low cost, mass produced garments with directly stifles quality, indigenous textiles as they are more time consuming and thus expensive to produce. Developed nations are hooked on to buying cheap clothes, constantly. This leaves no scope for indigenous textile innovation as it cannot compete with fast fashion garments derived from these primarily Asian nations, in terms of speed or price.
3| Inevitable Cultural Crises
Developing nations such as Africa suffer because of the rock-bottom prices of the donations they receive from Europe and USA. In a study by Oxfam, over 70% of the globally donated clothes, land up in Africa. According to a representative of the African Cotton & Textiles Industries Federation informed ‘“The average cost of a second-hand garment is between five and 10 percent of a new garment [made in Kenya], so [local industries] can’t compete.”
Given this fact, Africans are finding it hard to even locally produce their own national garments – causing a cultural crisis beyond an economic one!
4| Rampant Forced and Slave Labour
Developing countries are competing to become the world’s factories due to the huge GDP contributions, often at any cost. As they compete to lower wages forced and slave labour is encouraged. Workers are made to work in inhumane work conditions and for less than minimum wages in order to keep up with fast-fashions throw away prices.
Environmental Impacts Caused by Global Supply Chains
1| Shipping Pollution
More than 60% of the world’s garments are produced in developing countries. Asia produces over 32% of global supply of garments. As production and labour costs increase, manufacturing is moving to countries where these resources are even cheaper such as Vietnam, Pakistan and the Philippines. Some of these countries don’t have the raw material required and thus they have to be shipped from countries that do. The manufactured garments are then shipped out to the countries where they will finally be used. Countries like America purchase 22 billion items yearly with 90% percent of these items being transported into America by container ship.
To put it into perspective, a single ship has the propensity to produce as much pollution as 50 million cars! Tons of low-grade fuel is consumed by ships hourly causing colossal environmental and health damage in the way of hazardous, often unregulated emissions.
2| Unregulated Practices Caused by the Pressures of Fast fashion
Fast Fashion has advocated the concept of global supply chains. And while this concept might save you a few dollars, it proves to be very costly on the earth. When the multi-layered supply chains are pushed to produce cheaper items it is only inevitable that they will resort to malpractices that such as using cheaper hazardous chemicals. Practices like this harm all stakeholders of the industry all the way from workers, consumers through to the environment!
What can you do? Start making conscious fashion choices and look at locally sourced clothes over international brands.