For Bangladesh Factory Safety, Outside Inspectors Are Still MIA

Despite an uproar over workplace deaths, new oversight is stalled
There are about 5,000 apparel factories in Bangladesh, where the minimum wage is $39 a month Photograph by Jeff Holt/Bloomberg

Six months ago, when 1,127 Bangladeshi workers were killed in the collapse of a warren of garment factories, an international outcry led to pledges by Western retailers and the government to set up a large-scale inspection plan and a new wage system. Three programs sprang from those promises, but today not a single Bangladeshi garment factory has been inspected under any of them, according to officials at the programs. (Some factories are being audited independently by retailers while they await action.) Nor has danger ceased in the $19 billion industry: In early October a fire ravaged a factory in a Dhaka suburb that provided fabric for plants supplying clothing to companies including Wal-Mart Stores. Nine workers died.

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