In this path breaking study, social economist Naila Kabeer examines the lives of Bangladeshi garment workers to shed light on the question of what constitutes ‘fair’ competition in international trade. While Bangladesh is generally considered a poor, conservative Muslim country, with a long tradition of female seclusion, women here have entered factories to take their place as a prominent first generation labor force. On the other hand, in Britain’s modern and secular society with its long tradition of female industrial employment, Bangladeshi women are largely concentrated in home-based piece work for the garment industry.
This book draws on testimonies of both groups concerning their experiences at work and the impact these have on their lives generally to explain such paradoxes. Kabeer argues that any attempt to devise acceptable labor standards at the international level which takes no account of the forces of inclusion and exclusion within local labour markets is likely to represent the interests of powerful losers in international trade at the expense of weak winners.