November 29 2022 5:06 AM E-paper Subscribe Sign in My Account Sign out

It is time for us to end outsourcing the exploitation of people

Amjad Yamin (Photo: Jordan News)
Seemingly progressive policies that aim to provide safeguards against exploitation need to take a holistic, universal approach or else risk becoming just another scheme that outsources negative impacts rather than eliminates them. اضافة اعلان

While the EU, for example, has enacted policies to ensure workers protection or provide safeguards against exploitation of workers, such as capping working hours, paying fair wages, pushing for five-day work weeks, it remains dependent on workers all over the world who are often not guaranteed the same level of protection in their own countries.

This results in an eschewed perception — when looking at the EU in isolation — of the level of worker exploitation that has gone into a particular product. Such procedures end up ensuring that no EU worker is exploited in the process, but does not necessarily safeguard against overall exploitation of workers because the exploitation is outsourced to a third-country rather than eliminated from the process. 

Such practices, while increasing safeguards within a country’s borders, do so by either moving exploitative industries to other countries or by allowing the exploitation to continue in the name of competition.

Similarly, several countries — including the US and the UK — have made major strides in reducing their greenhouse gas emissions over the last few decades, and enacted legislation promoted as poster-policies in the fight against climate change and environmental responsibility. 

For example, the UK has seemingly reduced its domestic emissions by one-third in the 25 years leading up to 2015, not by eliminating one third of its emissions but by seemingly moving some industries abroad — like steel needed for skyscrapers — and if we are to include the carbon footprint of their imports as well, their total footprint within the same period would have increased rather than decreased.

Similar practices, if anything, continue across the world and, intentionally or not, end up outsourcing negatives like exploitation or pollution, rather than eliminating them. 

We need a universal look at the outcomes of policies before declaring them successful. Just because none were exploited within our own borders within any given industry does not mean nobody was exploited during the same process. 

Similarly, and even more relevantly perhaps, there is only one environment and one climate. Pushing the pollution onto other countries instead of deceasing it may serve of political value, but the net result on the world we live in will be the same. 

Policies need to provide safeguards across the entire supply chain process, we need to continue manufacturing while reducing pollution across the world, not move it to a different state. 

We should not underestimate how difficult this would be — and we may need years to find a working model, but outsourcing pollution and exploitation will catch up to all of us, if we do not do something about it.

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