A social issue
Hanna Zaretski


Before you start reading the articles, let's first introduce you to what sweatshops are:

A sweatshop is a workplace where workers endure harsh conditions and long hours for very little pay. Sweatshops are located everywhere in the world, but industrialized countries frequently take advantage of illegal immigrants as a source of labour; paying them less than minimum wage and provide conditions that aren't too safe. Since the workers are not legal residents of said country, many are too fearful to complain to authority figures. Sweatshops are a prime example of exploitation. Also, sweatshops were first introduced in North America during the industrial revolution as a source of cheap labour.


The politics of sweatshops
1) This article represents a left wing view and talks about two different perspectives. It states that first of all, although it shocks most of the first world nations, the main challenge in the lesser developed countries is not that sweatshops exploit too many people, but that they don't exploit enough. This article examines various families and how sweatshops affect them. Greg Mankiw (author) believes that those who live in a "dump" consider a job in a sweatshop to be a cherished dream and escape out of poverty. There isn't much of a bias, but the author greatly defends his view on how positive sweatshops really are.

The gruesome reality of sweatshops

2)This article states that it is extremely difficult to persuade the world's top clothing manufacturers that they should take responsibility in which their products were manufactured overseas. This issue was therefore investigated and it was found that none of the companies had committed to paying overseas workers a living wages. Such companies includes Nike, Adidas and Puma. Women, however, are compelled to take pregnancy tests and if they prove positive then they are slacked. Some of the sub-contractors lie about their employees' conditions of labour, and in particular about the amount of overtime they work. Special programs had even been developed to falsify the records of working hours.

Child sweatshop shame threatens Gap's ethical image

3) This article reveals how despite Gap's attempt to stop child labour in its production processes, the system is still being abused by subcontractors. This results in children working in conditions close to slavery. Gap's policy states that if it discovers children being used by contractors to make its cloths, than the contractor must remove the child from the workplace and provide it with access to schooling and a wage. In Amitosh's case (the young boy featured in the article), however, this system has not succeeded. He was sold into labour by his family and works 16 hours a day making clothes by hand. In recent years, Gap has made efforts to rebrand itself as a leader in responsible manufacturing.

Made in the U.S.A? Saipan Sweatshops Are No American Dream

4) Every year, thousands of labourers from China, the Philippines and other places in Asia are flown in the U.S.A. These poor workers are frequently trapped in a room with a dozen other people. A woman interviewed for this article described these conditions as horrible and she stated that if they complain, their bosses would threaten send them back to China and take away all their money. I believe there is some bias because we're only hearing this story from a woman who works in a sweatshop.

India Activists Decry Gap Child Labor

5) Activists and police raided a sweatshop in New Delhi, where 14 boys were embroidering women's garments. Many of the children were as young as 10 years old and come from a poor farming district. They said they had never been given promised wages for working up to 15 hours a day. The conditions of working and living in the sweatshop was extremely poor. The children (mostly boys) were packed into a filthy room, sleeping on the same floor where they sewed all day. In India, little has been done to diminish the country's widespread poverty. Approximately 13 million children work in sweatshops. Unfortunately, many of them work in hazardous environments such as glass making. Many children also get sold to sweatshops by their impoverished families.

Secrets, Lies, and Sweatshops

6) For over a decade, American retailers and name brands have answered accusations that they exploit sweatshop labour with codes of conduct.This article especially focuses on China. It has been found that numerous Chinese factories keep double sets of books to fool auditors and distribute scripts for employees to recite in case they get questioned. Many factories are better at concealing abuse, therefore their factories remain opened and no one does anything to help these poor people.

In Defense of Sweatshops

7)This article states that first world activists often conclude that there must be better alternatives for third world workers. They believe this due to the fact that we have better alternatives ourselves, therefore people have this "first world mentality". Economists from various spectrum's have pointed out that for many sweatshop workers, the alternatives are much worse. This article, for instance, talks about a 1993 case where U.S. Senator Tom Harkin proposed to ban imports from countries that employed children in sweatshops. In response, a factory in Bangladesh laid off 50, 000 children. Unfortunately, their next best alternative was that a large number of them became prostitutes. There is obvious bias in this article because the author only talks about the cons of sweatshops.

Trade Quotas? Ah, the Good Old Days

8) This article focuses on a small American territory :in Saipan. This tropical island struggled for years to improve working conditions in its sweatshops, and now they may lose many of its apparel factories to free market forces. And as Saipan's factories close or cut jobs, thousands of workers - most of them Chinese women - are left with a horrendous choice: go back to China's sweatshops and earn a fraction of their current pay or stay in Saipan, where it may be near impossible to find another job.

Garment Industry "Sweatshops"

9) The author of this article shows a different perspective to this issue. The fashion industry demands large amounts of clothing at very cheap prices, thus why cheap labour is required to meet this demand.It is also said that this "industry" empowers women. Sweatshop environments can cause women to perceive themselves as worthless because their positive judgments are taken away and they are subjected to harsh conditions, while everyone outside this industry profits from their hard work.

Global Sweatshop Wage Salary

10) This article states that transnational corporations (TNCs) look everywhere in the world for chances to find the cheapest and most vulnerable workers. They're mostly young women in poor countries like China, India, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Indonesia, Nicaragua, Haiti, and many others working up to 14 or more hours a day for horrific wages wages under horrible conditions.TNC's are a dehumanized workforce that ruthlessly exploits many people, as well as denies their civil liberties and the right to work in dignity in healthy and safe environments.

Gap, Next and M&S in new sweatshop scandal

11) Indian workers are paid extremely low and are forced to work overtime in factories used by some of Britain's best-known high street stores. Some workers even said they were paid at half the legal overtime rate. Gap confirmed that it had found wage violations and gave its supplier a deadline to repay workers who lost out. Since parents are typically working from 8am to 10pm, it's very hard to have contact with your children. Some children attend schools, but since they have no one looking out for them at the time, they do not feel compelled to go.

Two Cheers for Sweatshops

12) There are different perspectives when it comes to sweatshops. People in the first world have a clouded view of what they believe to be good. This is because we, from a Western point of view, see sweatshops very differently than those working there. Mongki, a young man interviewed, stated that his daughter is a sweatshop worker in Bangkok. He said that it was good pay and he hopes she keeps the job. There are rumors that her factory might close, but he hopes that doesn't happen because he is grateful for these jobs, although the working conditions are unpleasant. Another perspective is that the authors believe that sweatshops could be good for a country's economy. This article is not biased because there are two main opinions states.

Why are sweatshops a world issue?

Sweatshops is a world issue due to numerous reasons. Firstly, sweatshops occur everywhere in the world. Although people usually associate sweatshops with being in the lesser developed countries, that is false. Many corporations in first world countries also exploit people by setting up these factories. Secondly, it is a global consequence. Many say that we all contribute to sweatshops since we buy clothes from these workers. Sweatshop workers should instead be involved in our society by being able to peruse other jobs, such as working as cashiers or managers. Also, sweatshops are incredibly threatening to today's society. These people should be allowed to take part in shaping our global future, but instead they are working long, physically exhausting hours. Furthermore, there are many perspectives regarding sweatshop workers. Essentially, it's not "black and white": people have conflicting arguments. For example, some activists believe that it is more beneficial to work in a sweatshop than being out in the streets. Others, however, believe it is crucial to eliminate sweatshops altogether. In addition, sweatshops are more threatening in some areas more than others. Third world countries, for example, tend to have more factories than that in first world countries.

How has this issue evolved?

Although much effort has been made by activists and organizational that speak up for the rights of sweatshop workers, it's not making an impact. During the time frame of my issue, there has unfortunately not been much improvement. Many major corporations continue to "hire" workers under harsh environments and sweeping the evidence under the rug. Hopefully sometime in the future, coronations would try o lighten up and increase their wage and lower hours.

Sides in this issue

Pro: The first perspective is that sweatshops are beneficial because if we don't have sweatshops, there is no other alternative. If people didn't have any source of income, they might turn to drug dealing, prostitution or anything else that's harmful. Clearly, working long exhausting hours beats other alternatives. Parents of child workers are the best example of this. They believe that their children will be an economic asset if they work in sweatshops.They want their children to "succeed", therefore there is no other alternative. Many parents also get promised by businessmen that their kids will benefit greatly, but they are clearly lied to.

Con: Another side in this issue is that sweatshops are bad in general. They contribute to nothing but taking away people's lives. Human rights activists play a large role by getting involved in stopping sweatshops. UNICEF is an example of an organization that does this. Other anti-sweatshop movements consider sweatshops harmful and accuse many companies of using sweatshops (E.g Nike and Gap).

Interconnected web

Social Issue:

The social aspect of sweatshops is quite terrifying. Both children and adults are greatly affected by it. First of all, sweatshop workers frequently work long hours for extremely low pay, regardless of laws that mandate overtime pay or minimum wage. The most vulnerable of sweatshop workers are women and children. Consequently, they often get exploited. This is due to the fact that many women from lesser developed countries aren't aware of their rights. Women and children form a key part in our society and therefore play a large role in shaping our future. In turn, it is important to keep them healthy and diminish any disease caused by physical labour. Logically, the poorer a country is the more exploitable its people are. For instance, many immigrants believe that just because they are in the country illegally, they have different right as a citizen and as a worker. Child labour is perhaps the most dangerous type of sweatshop. In most developed countries, it is considered inappropriate if a child below a certain age works. An employee is usually not permitted to hire a child below a certain minimum age. This minimum age depends on the country and the type of work that is involved, however the age usually varies from 14 to 16. Currently, there are approximately 250 million children workers at the ages of 5 and 14 in third world countries. Most of them work in sweatshops earning very little money and work long hours. Children who work in sweatshops lack the ability to develop properly because they work long hours, frequently without seeing their family. Children in turn don't get nurtured properly.Furthermore, sweatshop workers experience horrible working conditions including extremely low minimum wage, no benefits, and forced overtime; all in which is deteriorating to the persons' mental and physical health. Corporations clearly don't care about their employees; they just care about maximizing their profits, regardless of who gets harmed. Frequently, corporations also try to claim that the working conditions are not their responsibility.

Political Issue:

Sweatshops are a political issue for various reasons. First of all, there are many laws and regulations as of now that forbid sweatshops, yet they continue to happen. It is incredibly important for government officials to raise awareness of sweatshops in order to diminish them. Every country has their own policy regarding sweatshops, but many third world countries do not acknowledge this. Some people have the ideology that sweatshops are better for people because they are at least making some money. A California law passed in 1999 (Assembly Bill 633) holds garment manufacturers and retailers responsible for workers' wages.

Sweatshops and child labor are often cited when groups call for boycotts of businesses and trade sanctions against third world nations. Protesters debate labour laws and frequently emerge in news headlines and spread awareness. Although sweatshops and child labour are undesirable, they are a necessary step in each nation's development towards human rights and a developed economy.

Economic Issue:

The only reason that sweatshops exist is due to an economic reason. Poverty is the underlying issue. Not only do parents work in sweatshops, but they send their children to work there as well in order to get some money. Children are also easier to exploit, so many businessmen tell children they will live a better and rich life if they come work for them, but that is never the case. Developing countries encourage the outsourcing of work from the developed world to factories within their borders in order to provide employment for their people and profits to their employers. The shift of production to developing counties is part of the process known as globalization. The clothing-garment industry is based entirely on a subcontracting system, where retailers sit at the top of the subcontracting chain. They place orders with bran-name labels who design clothing. Contractors and subcontractors recruit, hire and "pay" the garment workers who cut, sew, and package clothing, Garment workers lie at the bottom of the chain, yet they are the base and strength of the industry. Fierce competition puts many people in a "take it or leave it" position, where they must accept whatever low price is given to them by manufacturers.

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