måndag 23 april 2007

UK supermarkets and Third World Wages

Originally uploaded by hedgeman2006.

An article in today's Independent reports that UK supermarkets are exploiting poor workers in the Third World and driving down wages.

No doubt the big supermarkets are using their muscle to drive a hard bargain, but their intervention on the scene could not possibly do this - on the contrary. And nobody could get away with paying low wages if there was anything better on offer. They are merely exploiting a pre-existing situation - that of large-scale landlessness. If the supermarkets went away, the poorly paid workers would just lose their jobs.

When people have no access to land except on a landlord's terms, then they have no option but to accept, at a penurious wage, whatever work is available. This is just as true in developed countries like Britain as it is in the Third World. Fair Trade schemes can only scratch the surface of the problem.

The solution is the right sort of land reform to ensure that everyone who wants land has free access to it - after all, land costs nothing to produce and is everyone's birthright.

This has nothing to do with the supermarkets but blaming them is a good substitute for thinking about the issue.

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