Corporate social responsibility and workplace casualties in Bangladesh: an appraisal of Islamic principles as a potential solution


Bangladesh is home to around 6,000 garment factories, which make the industry the second largest apparel manufacturer in the world just behind China. The garment industry as a single sector adds the highest amount of foreign currency1 to the gross domestic products (GDP) of the country.2 This sector alone earned more than US24billionoutofthetotalexportrevenueofUS24 billion out of the total export revenue of US30.17 billion of Bangladesh in the fiscal year 2013-14.3 However, a Harvard conference lately reveals that India has surpassed Bangladesh by occupying the second position in the aftermath of the recent fatalities in the garment industry that appear to have affected customer loyalty, contributing to this downtum.4 The industry employs an estimated four million people; about 90 per cent of these are women who come from impoverished, uneducated and untrained backgrounds and who are often teenagers. 5 They have found this work in a demographic scenario where 32 percent of youths in the potential labour force are either unemployed or underemployed as revealed from the latest population census of the country, which took place in 2011.6 Taking advantage of such an awful dearth of job opportunities, garment owners can do almost anything they want to do. Hence, the workers are to work in an exploitative environment that includes safety risk, low salaries, sexual harassment, and both physical and verbal abuse.7 Employers ignore the safety requirements assumingly with a belief that the law is confined to the books and people are willing to work regardless of safety hazards. As a result, the number of workplace deaths and injuries continues to grow day by day with virtual impunity being granted to the wrongdoers leaving no redress for their victims.8 The unprecedented fire at Tazreen Fashions Ltd in November 2012 and the horrific collapse of Rana Plaza in April 2013 that claimed more than 1,000 lives and caused serious injuries to many others have galvanised the agonies of garment workers in Bangladesh as discussed in Section IV below. According to the US Committee on Foreign Relations, \u27[w]hen the Tazreen Fashions factory burned down, it was the worst garment factory accident in Bangladesh\u27s history. When Rana Plaza collapsed, it was the worst garment factory accident in world history.\u27 9 The Committee adds that \u27Bangladesh\u27s garment sector may not be able to withstand another tragedy on the scale of Tazreen and Rana Plaza\u27 .1

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This paper was published in Research Online.

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