söndag 13 oktober 2013

Fairness of Fairtrade

The good deed of the day: Buy fairtrade products it ensures producers good working conditions!

According to Fairtrades website, the organization is a form of international trade which is based on a partnership between partner and consumer. The partnership offers producers better deals and improved terms and conditions of trade. According to Fairtrade it gives producers an opportunity improve their lives but also it’s a way to offer consumers a powerful way to reduce poverty through every day shopping.  Fairtrade marked products means that the producing process and traders have met Fairtrade standards which are thought to balance the power in trading relationships, unstable markets and the injustices of conventional trade. This is according to Fairtrade International’s website.
There are a lot of things that are good with the Fairtrade thinking and vision. However I find it to be a bit problematic when you say that you represent something but only do it halfhearted. Here’s why.
 Fairtrade sounds good, of course it does. But at the same time it is a way for consumers, particularly us living in the Western world, to pat ourselves on our shoulders and have a coffee with a good conscious. According to Fairtrade producers are given to opportunity to improve their lives through the partnership. Now, Fairtrade pays salaries according to the minimum wage of every country. So if you are in Ghana working on a cocoa farm, then your salary will be 5.24 Ghana cedis a/day according to their minimum wage, which is too little in comparison to the labor.  In Europe, the worst minimum wage is in Eastern Europe which is about 10 Euros/day. This means that a Ghanaian farmer will in one month earn what an Eastern European earns in about two working days. One has to also take into consideration the working conditions. Working in the African scorching sun for 5 Ghana cedis/day, is that fair? It’s not fair since the policies and process of setting the policies for the minimum wage of for example Ghana might not even be a fair one. So how can Fairtrade go in accordance with that?
Also I think it’s ridiculous to say that it’s a way for consumers to reduce poverty through every day shopping. Now, we all know the debates that “we who live in the rich part of the world would change our way of living we would all live in a fair world”. That’s why I have a problem with the above statement from Fairtrade. It implies that, “hey my fellow Westerners, we can still shop without feeling guilty”. The statement does not help in changing any form of consumerism lifestyle that we have in this part of the world. Instead it says that there are other ways of going about it. Furthermore I think that it tells us that they can’t reduce poverty without the help of Fairtrade and Fairtrade’s consumers. This in turn brings more guilt and therefore more consumers, so instead of buying normal coffee you’ll buy the Fairtrade brand thinking that you did the good deed of the day. And of course as I said before there are good regulations that ensure producers certain rights.  However it is quite annoying that the salaries are according to the minimum wage in each country while Fairtrade product are really expensive comparing to other products of the same kind. There should be a prize for labor instead. I mean nobody in Sweden would accept 5 Ghana cedis for that type of labor so why is it acceptable in another country when negotiations of minimum wages are unfair in the first place?
To me this just sounds like another form of exploitation of other countries. Because the Fairtrade organization is not volunteer work, they get a salary as well. It’s just a more acceptable way of using the injustices in this world to make money.
The workers/producers get rights that they don’t get at other working places so this is fairly good. At least the working place is democratic and has to follow other principles that actually obligate the working place to include workers in certain issues. And better working conditions etc etc. Of course Fairtrade with all their conditions and regulations will look better than the other company who takes advantage of poor workers and treat them bad at the same time. Fairtrade will definitely look better. However, I don’t believe in Fairtrade. It is unfair and it’s just a way for consumers to pat their shoulders and feel good and wipe away the guilt!