Liberalism, which accepts and describes the natural limits to the exploitation of resources, could not have present that the economic system have other limits, which are not of resources, but moral.
For instance, it is though that the use of almost enslaved-labor force should be excluded when generating wealth, in the same way that an athlete is penalized for the use of doping substances to win a competition. These conditions do not, of course, alter the competition, since it is still perfectly true that competition will make companies that use production factors more efficiently to generate a greater degree of wealth succeed. The only difference, in this case, is that the limits to the production of wealth do not come from a natural impossibility, but from a moral imposition that limits the functioning of the market. This is the case of captive employees, who can be considered as a highly-exploitable workforce, who have historically been used as capital in the corrective and discriminatory work of capitalist societies. A major example of this is the prisoners work, which at first glance, gives detainees a job during their sentence, permits them to add to their own upkeep and, ideally, it will provide them with a better opportunity of getting a real payed job upon liberation. Unfortunately, and maybe obviously, this is not the outcome it has given. Also, the example of the garment industry in some countries where working conditions are almost slavish and labor rights are almost non-existent, with excessively long work schedules, sewing garments that will end up in stores of some of the major international chains of the West such as H & M, GAP, Mark and Spencer, Adidas or Armani. Otherwise, the worker is exposed to being fired, suffering salary deductions or suffering a punitive transfer.
Thus, it has become more than a tidy profit-making scheme for corporations and other entities willing to exploit the captive labor force. For which the question arises: “To what extent is it morally correct to use prisoners and people with very limited occupational options to enrich the big industries?”. Along this paper, this issue will be discussed in terms of morality by describing the advantages and disadvantages for both examples, making comparisons where relevant, giving examples by using literatiure review and some conclusions will be drawn based on the information described.2. Theoretical Framework2.
1. General Background Since the 70s and 80s, the big brands have been moving from the industrialized countries to the new emerging economies of Asia and Latin America. This displacement was motivated by the desire of increasing productivity and the reduction of the costs of production, which in these countries are much cheaper. This was possible by the Export Processing Zones (EPZ), which were created in the 1980s to boost exports, increase economic growth and create jobs in impoverished areas of developing countries.
In these free trade zones, some trade barriers such as tariffs and quotas are not present, and bureaucratic procedures are reduced in order to attract new business and foreign investment. In Bangladesh, for example, which is one of the poorest countries on the planet, the textile sector accounts 17% of its total Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The textile industry employs three million of people, most of them, women, with an average salary of 38 euros per month, equivalent to a minimum wage that is among the lowest in the world (International Labour Org, 2009). According to the NGO Setem in its Clean Clothes campaign (2010), the cost of labor in such textile sector is between 1 and 3 percent of the final price of the clothes. Therefore, firms can lower prices at points of sale to levels that, if they have to bear the costs of salaries, taxes and conditions of work security of the first world, would not be “competitive”.
On the other hand, regarding the prissioners case, the famous social theorist Michel Foucault, believes that the value of freedom acquired economic meaning with the emergence of the new system of capitalist production. The deprivation of freedom and with it the confinement, held a teleology not only political but also economic, so that the invention and implementation of the penitentiary system changed the paradigm in terms of social control going from a policy of annihilation to a policy of reintegrating the transgressor (Foucault, 2002: 233). Its central social function has been constituted around the reproduction and preservation of social order through the penalty of the non-corporal and the absolute regulation of the behavior of the inmates (ibid .: 23). Through this it is expected that inmates become active and can be socialized in the logic of order, obedience and regularity required by the productive apparatus (ibid .: 245), hoping with this to contribute to their subsequent social reintegration.2.
2. Discussion The garment industry has seen a large growth since 1994 in Bangladesh. However, wages have stagnated, and are not according to the cost of living, and much lower than wages in other labor / industrial sectors. This is possible, since Bangladesh is the Asian country with the greatest distance between the minimum wage and the dignified one. In 2015, the Bengali government once again raised the minimum salary to 68 euros per month. However, it is still far from the 329.4 euros that the Asia Floor Wage organization considers to be a living wage for the citizens of this country. This is why, in general, the current minimum wage does not even cover food expenses for 1 single person.
This is because, as a country where labor is abundant, the likelihood of the whole Bangladeshi economy relies on the lineaments of the market for labour. Truth be told, the labor demand is not sufficiently adequate to produce opportunities of job for the workers who are underemployed or unemployed. As a result, the economy confronts a surplus of labour. In this way, in such circumstances of underemployed and unemployed workers, employment is dictated by the factors of demand (Rahman, 1993). In accordance with Keynes, there is a natural rate of unemployment which he called as a feature of all markets of labour; Nonetheless, unintentional unemployment may emerge by the existence of a disequilibrium in the markets of labour, with demand being exceeded by supply (Hall, 1972). As indicated by Keynes, the lack of demand in the overall economy is most likely to produce beyond the natural rate, a higher level of unemployment.
This is why, if a minimum wage is implemented by the Bangladeshi government, some workers may become fired, due to as the fixed assets or cost of production are increased, the quantity of semi-skilled or low-skilled demanded decreases accordingly.Thus, tales trabajadores contraen y activan sus relaciones laborales en condiciones de precariedad social, debido a que la mayoría, ante el apremio de la supervivencia, prefiere perder sus derechos de trabajador, que perder su trabajo y caer en una situación económica aún peor. Such workers accept to be hired in conditions of social precariousness, because the majority of them, given the urgency of survival, prefer to lack of their worker rights, rather than losing their job and fall into an even worse economic situation. This can be seen by the fact that, in 2013, the rate of unemployment was relatively low with just 4%, (Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics 2013), and it is to some extent, due to it would not be affordable for workers to stay jobless and attempt to earn a living from any job or occupation, regardless the work conditions. Therefore, many employees engage in vulnerable work, for which there is no globally recognized definition for this case.
However, income earned and stability in job are perspectives that would describe it. According to Human Rights Watch, the Department of Inspection of the Ministry of Labor, in charge of supervising that employers comply with the Labor Law of Bangladesh, there is “a chronic lack of resources”. Then, when the few available inspectors notice infractions, the fines set under this rule are insufficient to urge employers to comply with the regulations.
For instance, even though the law penalizes with prison sentences for those who violate the rules on health and safety at work, in general, those result in fines of approximately 10 euros per case (Khair, 1995)Thus, a possible solution for this would be for the companies to control their suppliers. For example, The brand Inditex launched a kind of preselection system for its suppliers years ago. Basically, they run a double check before starting to work with the group and then pass a pre-selection system and fill in a form detailing the number of workers that have on staff, how many factories have and where and how the whole production process is. After that, the auditors go physically to these areas to verify that this information is correct. Nevertheless, the problem the cost associated to carry out an audit in a factory in one of these countries, which goes between 700 and 1,200 euros. Additionally, monitoring the suppliers presents the second chain of suppliers problem, since a final good can be bought to a factory that complies with the standards, but this, in turn, has hired other companies that have been responsible for working the different components for a final good. This is why, nowadays, a garment with European label may have followed a long process, from the cotton being taken from India to be spin in Turkey and weaved in Bangladesh.
On the other hand, the detained workers, according to Western and Beckett (1999), the operation of the prison and the prison system in general would not only have implications for job opportunities inside the prison, but also consequences on the functioning of the labor market to the extent that the prison would be used as an institution regulating the labor market (ibid). Specifically, the important expansion that the penal system has had would have been used by the United States for the imprisonment of a greater number of people, especially male labor force, thus achieving to reduce the unemployment rates.The highest international body in charge of controlling the labor law (ILO), addresses the issue of the work of prisoners in their agreements 29 and 105.
Thus, the ILO does not prohibit prison work in any way but if, on the other hand, it determines restrictions precise about it. The aforementioned regulations stipulate that prison work can only be imposed on convicts by judicial decision. Logically, it becomes obligatory for the prison authorities to supervise the work.
Specifically, Convention 105 establishes that companies or individuals may employ prisoners who work voluntarily, and must ensure that their working conditions are similar to those of the free employment relationships of the sector in question, making it essential that prison workers have consented your work in favor of a private employer. These jobs are mainly in prison workshops that produce goods that are sold to private entities in the open market, or work outside the prison for a private entity in the framework of a pre-release program, among others. However, as in the garment industry, it is largely cheaper than free labor. In the USA, for instance, a supplier may pay these workers $ 2 per hour for a work that normally is payed with $ 20 to $ 30 per hour.
Moreover, prison work has been working more in the axis of domination than rehabilitation, in terms of the salaries. In general, the Prison Administration deducts monthly a percentage of the income of the inmates in order that said money be saved in an individual fund, to which the person will have access once they have definitively withdrawn from the prison system. Certainly, this measure seems to make sense, since it is likely that it will take a while for the person to find a job or start working independently upon release. However, this instrument generates at the same time doubts on the part of the penitentiary labor force regarding the administration of the money, delegitimizing with it all effort that is being made in the matter of labor training and prison work.
At the same time, it is a mechanism through which detainees face higher levels of material restriction, because their income is already low. The anticipated use of part of these funds by these people seems to illustrate that this hypothesis is rather a reality today within this prison context.Therefore, for the International Labor Organization, it is essential that work of any kind be carried out under conditions that approximate those of the “free labor”, in virtue of the principles related to human dignity. Then, in case a company makes use of penitentiary or garment work, it is advisable that in economic matters the conditions are similar to those of free workers, as well as they must get the same conditions in terms of health, job security, hygiene and social security. In this sense, the salary would play a central role in this socialization process. The reformation of it, would allow the worker to transmit “the moral” form “of salary as a condition of his/her existence” (ibid .: 246), that is, the present effort for a future benefit as well as the sense of property.
However, there is no general assessment or consideration about morality, but quite the contrary, there is more than one way to understand and look at it. For example, Socrates conceives morality as a knowledge, while Aristotle describes it as happiness and utilitarianism associates it with the principle of utility or maximum happiness. Whereas, Christian usnaturalism has long been taken to affirm that there is a universal moral law, that is, what is right and wrong according to the principles of God. But, the point of view that is sustained by the International Labor Organization, is the discursive moral, for which moral norm is that one which is acceptable by the community of dialogue, whose participants have the same rights and maintain relations of freedom and equality, this is, which is reached through dialogue and not monologue.2.
3. HypotesisWith all this, the conclusion that the morality of societies changes as the relationships between human beings change is reached. If it is accepted as valid a relationship of domination of one man over another, one social class over another, one country over another, nthing remains but to accept the idea that the morality prevailing in that society, it will be the morality of the dominator, the morality of the ruling class, etc. In the absence of a generally recognized definition of moral, this study is limited and would require future studies to update the definitions that it acquired as time passes and as the conditions and conclusions for this topic change.A pesar que la respuesta a la pregunta en question sería, el dar mejores y más dignas condiciones de trabajo a esta clase de trabajadores haría de este Mercado funcionar más moral y justamente, others might say this type of work is morally correct for prissioners who are meant to be working to learn, rather than earning a salary and low-skilled workers who are at least not starving and earning according to the cost of living of their country of origin and according to their academic preparation, regardless of the extreme and unhealthy working conditions, if that salary is indispensable for sustenance, a worker will probably not think of labor claims, since these come when at least the basic needs have been covered. Aquí de nuevo está presente, las discrepancias en la definición de la moral. Although the answer to the central question would be, to give better and more dignified working conditions to this class of workers, which would make this market work more morally and fairly, others would say this type of work is morally correct for prissioners who are meant to be working to learn, rather than earning income and low-skilled workers who are at least not starving and earning according to the cost of living from their country of origin and according to their academic preparation, regardless of the extreme and unhealthy working conditions.
Here again is present, the discrepancies in the definition of morality.3. CONCLUSIONSArguments in favor of the use of captive employees affirm that, the destruction of the barriers marked by the national interests supposes an opportunity to increase the global wealth through a better allocation of resources by the mechanism of the competition, as well as a splendid occasion for the less developed countries to improve their future prospects by exploiting their competitive advantages, in this case the cheap labor force due to the excess supply of labor, especially those with few occupational options, offering a salary not considered worthy and sufficient for the development of the individual.Also, the prison work that has been established as part of the rehabilitation system in different prisons in the world, has now been targeted by large industries that seek to maximize profits by hiring imprisoned workers, who are often paid a third of what is usually payed to a free worker. Then, the large corporations having sufficient power to achieve the effective application of minimum standards of respect for human rights, the mere non-use of this mechanism generates in them an indisputable moral responsibility.
Therefore, it can be said that the culprit of the existence of labor regulations as disrespectful of human rights as those that now exist in many developing countries are not, in general, those same countries that do not have the capacity some to modify it without suffering terrible consequences, but the set of countries that could undertake this task without sacrificing their quality of life substantially, those are, the developed countries.A pesar de las diferentes formas de definir y ver la moral, the International Labour Organization, opine que a way for the use of captive employees to be moral could be by ensuring safe workplace conditions, give inmates the right to organize and negotiate, and pay all workers at least minimum wage and let them keep all their earnings, because societies are too ideologically committed to using captive labour as a source of low-cost or free labor. Nonetheless, this hypothesis has been criticized because it is said that if large industries stop using this labor force, they would interfere in the process of rehabilitation of the prisoners, who take greater advantage of this time of imprisonment for their subsequent reintegration into the labor market. On the other hand, if the cheap labor from Bangladesh or another country with the same labor situation would be stopped being used by the big insdustries, the excess of labor would make workers fall into a worse economic situation due to their limited occupational options.