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2015-02_dc

18 D+C Vol.42.2015:2 On my trip to China last October, I was able, whilst in Jiaxing, to find out more about social and environmental standards in the Chinese textile sector. It was brought home to me once again that every sewing machine is being operated by a person who needs a living wage and a safe and healthy work- ing environment. That naturally applies to working conditions at every stage of production, from the cot- ton fields to the shop shelves. In China, a great deal has been done in recent years to raise production standards. The country ranks among the world’s lead- ing textile manufacturers. However, garments are also made in other countries, such as Bangladesh, In- dia, Vietnam and Cambodia. In many places, working conditions do not con- form to internationally agreed social and environ- mental standards. Exploitation and discrimination are a fact of daily life for millions of people working in the clothing industry. The list of negative head- lines is long and the problems are often similar: en- vironmental scandals in which untreated effluent is piped into rivers and destroys ecosystems, people working under poor conditions in factories – work- ing days that exceed 16 hours, wages that are not enough to live on, exposure to hazardous chemicals, to name but a few examples. I have personally wit- nessed children working at a tannery in North Af­ rica, standing barefoot in chemicals with no kind of skin or respiratory protection. Do we really want to put those clothes on our bodies? Tragic accidents like the fire at Ali Enterprises in Pakistan and the col- lapse of the Rana Plaza factory complex in Bangla- desh a number of years ago also show that action is urgently needed. The rich world has a responsibility for the condi- tions people work under in developing countries. We cannot just exploit the environment, outsource production and act at home as if everything is hunky dory. Development policy can play a crucial role in helping to improve social and environmental stand- ards in textile production worldwide. The issue is on the agenda of many of the talks we hold with the governments of partner countries that grow raw ma- terials such as cotton or make and process textiles. Quality criteria Social and environmental standards in the textile sector need to improve. That is one of the goals of German development policy. By Gerd Müller Gerd Müller on a visit to a Chinese textile factory. Imo/photothek

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