Many brand name companies use them. It allows them to continue making millions and even billions of dollars each and every year. However, they are illegal and negatively impact the lives of people living in developing countries. What are they you may ask? Sweatshops. In general, a sweatshop can be described as a workplace where workers are subject to extreme exploitation, including the absence of a living wage or benefits, poor working conditions, and arbitrary discipline such as verbal and physical abuse . The US Department of Labor defines a sweatshop as a factory that violates two or more labor laws, such as those pertaining to child labor or working hours . Often, people who work in sweatshops have nowhere else to work. They’re poor and cannot afford education which leaves them with a few options to be able to support their families. Children are even forced to work in order to help their parents, and are denied an education and a normal childhood. The International Labor Organization (ILO) has estimated that 250 million children between the ages of 5 and 14 work in sweatshops in developing countries . From these 250 million, 61% are from Asia, 32% are from Africa, and 7% are from Latin America. It is no doubt that this is a significant issue in the world today.
Conditions in the factories:
- Workers are confined and beaten
- Denied the right to leave the workplace and go home to their families
- Some children are abducted and forced to work
- Work in small areas
- Face starvation
- Work long hours
- Terrible working conditions
- It is dangerous to be working in these factories because your life is at risk
- Don’t make anywhere close to minimum wage
- Can’t pay for the basic necessities of life
This video shows the truth about the working conditions and pay for people in China who provide clothing for the brand name company that we all know as Nike:
Why do people work in sweatshops and how is it allowed to function?
Defenders of sweatshops often bring up the fact that even though sweatshops are bad, they at least give people jobs that they wouldn’t have had otherwise . However, because the pay is atrocious, it rarely improves the economic situation of the worker. Furthermore, working in sweatshops for prolonged periods of time can have negative effects on your body physically, emotionally, and psychologically. Unfortunately, these people are trapped in an awful cycle and have to go and work everyday and suffer just to be able to make it through another day. Some aren’t qualified for other jobs and if they’re living in Canada or the U.S. it is difficult to find another job because English isn’t their first language. Most factories are monitored by inspectors, who are paid by the industry. Often, they’ll call ahead to arrange a visit, this will give factory management time to make the place look presentable, and coach the workers about what to say . This is why the conditions may not seem as horrible as it actually is to an inspector. Lastly, sweatshops aren’t severely restricted which allows them to still exist today.
What products are made in sweatshops?
- Shoes and sneakers
- Goods and other products
The majority of garment workers are immigrant women that work 60-80 hours per week . Additionally, they’re not paid minimum wage and they do not receive overtime pay. A lot of child labour is in the rug industry, nearly one million children are illegally employed making hand-knotted rugs worldwide . In Pakistan this is a major issue because 75% of the weavers there are girls under the age of 14. What’s even more shocking is that North American toy makers earn $11/hour. However, in China this is drastically reduced to 30 cents! Cocoa and coffee workers receive wages that leave them at the edge of poverty and starvation. Finally, banana workers have one of the most dangerous jobs for they’re exposed to dangerous pesticides!
Which companies use sweatshops and why?
We often buy clothes and other products without taking into account where its from and what kinds of people are making it . Many brand name companies such as H&M, Nike, and Wal-Mart rely on the services of sweatshops in countries like Vietnam, Bangladesh, and China to manufacture their clothing . This is because using sweatshops increases profit. Furthermore, some companies could even go bankrupt without the use of sweatshops. Also, companies would have to raise the prices of their products in order to maintain profit. However, this doesn’t seem to be a problem because a recent study by American professor Robert Pollin who is a professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and founding co-director of its Political Economy Research Institute showed that doubling the salary of sweatshop workers would only increase the consumer cost of an item by 1.8% meanwhile consumers would be willing to pay 15% more to know a product did not come from a sweatshop . These companies have dealt with severe consequences for their actions and have been publicly exposed for the use of sweatshops. Unfortunately, even though some of these companies claim that they no longer use sweatshops, it has been revealed that companies like Nike still use them.
Why you should care:
A building in Bangladesh collapsed in April of 2013 killing hundreds and trapping or injuring many more may have housed workers producing clothes for some of the world’s best-known brands. The death toll from Bangladesh’s worst industrial accident has passed 1,000 as recovery teams continue to find more bodies in the wreckage . The truth of the matter is some people who work in sweatshops are working in environments that aren’t capable of holding a high capacity number of people. Ultimately, sweatshops are a danger to the workers, and need to be shut down.
To learn more about the collapse and sweatshops watch this documentary:
What needs to be done in order to help bring an end to sweatshops: 
- There needs to be full public disclosure
- Companies must disclose the treatment and pay of workers and how and where products were made
- The disclosure needs to be backed up with independent monitoring of working conditions and pay
- Violations that are discovered must be corrected in a way that protects workers and their jobs
- Companies could pay for the education of the children working in sweatshops and increase the wages of the parents
What can you do?
- You can boycott products made in sweatshops or by child labour
- Spread the word and educate people on the topic
- Donate money to charities supporting people who live in developing countries
- Buy less clothing (you have more than you need anyway) 
- Go used (you minimize the profit of other clothing companies) 
- Make your own clothes 
- Look for the following labels: Fair Trade Certified, Goodweave Label, and Rainforest Alliance Verified/Certified for clothing, rugs, and produce 
- Research companies who don’t use them 
Next time when you go out to shop, think twice about supporting large corporate companies who are run by greedy CEO’s. Look for the appropriate labels, or research into which companies make clothing that are made in Canada, the U.S.A. or other first world countries. Let’s all try to bring an end to sweatshops so that there can be a brighter future for us all.
Now, I want to hear from you:
- Will you continue to buy clothing made from companies who use sweatshops? Why or why not?
- What do you think are some other alternatives to using sweatshops?
- Do you think this is a worthy cause to support? Why or why not?
- Has this post changed your perspective on the priorities of large companies?
- What was the most interesting/shocking fact that you have learned from reading this post?
 No Author, “Nike Sweatshops in China”, n.d. Retrieved May 4, 2015 from http://fashion.lilithezine.com/Nike-Sweatshops-in-China.html
 Rodriguez, Ivan, “Stop Sweatshop Labor”, n.d. Retrieved May 4, 2015 from http://stopsweatshop.weebly.com/solution.html
 No Author, “Sweatshops”, June 11, 2013. Retrieved May 4, 2015 from http://aiikc.com/artbot/?p=3365#.VUbVDvlViko
 Embar, Wanda, “Sweatshops and Child Labor”, n.d. Retrieved May 4, 2o15 from http://www.veganpeace.com/sweatshops/sweatshops_and_child_labor.htm
 MacIntyre, David, “10 Major Clothing Brands Caught in Shocking Sweatshop Scandals”, July 8, 2014. Retrieved May 4, 2015 from http://www.therichest.com/rich-list/most-shocking/10-major-clothing-brands-caught-in-shocking-sweatshop-scandals/?view=all
 No Author, “11 Facts About Sweatshops”, n.d. Retrieved May 4, 2015 from https://www.dosomething.org/facts/11-facts-about-sweatshops
 Rakestraw, Marsha, “5 Tips for Keeping a Sweatshop-Free Closet”, April 3, 2013. Retrieved May 4, 2015 from http://humaneeducation.org/blog/2013/04/03/5-tips-keeping-sweatshop-free-closet/
 No Author, “Bangladesh toll passes 1,000”, May 10, 2013. Retrieved May 4, 2015 from http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-22476774