Gary Gereffi’s work titled “The Global Economy: Organization, Governance, and Development” prompted me to reflect on international trade and production networks. He refers to industrial upgrading and global production networks in the apparel/textile industry. Gereffi asserts that for a country to be successful in the garment industry there needs to be a shift from assembly production to OEM and OBM export capacities. In order for a country to upgrade it’s position in the market, it must establish a sturdy textile industry. Page 176 in “The Globalization Reader” provides and informative chart detailing the apparel value chain in terms of the relationship between a country’s level of development and its respective value added.
When I think about the textile industry and the production side of the value chain, I think of South East Asian countries like Cambodia. I had the opportunity to experience firsthand a traditional Cambodian garment factory just outside the capital of Phnom Penh in 2012. Despite several concerns over the future of the textile industry in Cambodia and increasing problems with union violations and minimum wage, Cambodia’s garment industry was already making a push to revamp its position in the global industry. However, controversy over minimum wage, atrocious working conditions, and mounting trade violations have held Cambodia back from reaching its full potential. Cambodia’s concerted effort to enhance its position in the textile industry is strategic for the growth of the country. Currently, the garment industry provides up to 650,000 jobs, accounts for 1.6% of the country’s GDP, and captures 1.2% of the world market for garments. Cambodia would surely benefit from Gereffi’s advice to switch from assembly production to OEM and OBM in order to compete in a global economy.
This link from the Clean Clothes Campaign provides important and necessary facts on Cambodia’s garment industry and its effect on the domestic and international economies.
The video above is the trailer for the number 1 reality tv show in Norway called “Sweatshop.” It follows three young clothing-obsessed Norwegian women who spend time working in and experiencing the harsh environment of the Cambodian garment factories. The show highlights the social injustices workers in this industry confront.