Sweatshop
Overview
Sweatshop is a negatively connoted
Connotation
A connotation is a commonly understood subjective cultural or emotional association that some word or phrase carries, in addition to the word's or phrase's explicit or literal meaning, which is its denotation....

 term for any working environment
Workplace
The workplace is a place where someone works.*Toxic workplace*Workplace aggression: A specific type of aggression that occurs in the workplace....

 considered to be unacceptably difficult or dangerous. Sweatshop workers often work long hours for very low pay, regardless of laws mandating overtime pay or a minimum wage
Minimum wage
A minimum wage is the lowest hourly, daily or monthly remuneration that employers may legally pay to workers. Equivalently, it is the lowest wage at which workers may sell their labour. Although minimum wage laws are in effect in a great many jurisdictions, there are differences of opinion about...

. Child labour laws may be violated. Sweatshops may have hazardous materials and situations. Employees may be subject to employer abuse without an easy way to protect themselves.

The U.S.
Encyclopedia
Sweatshop is a negatively connoted
Connotation
A connotation is a commonly understood subjective cultural or emotional association that some word or phrase carries, in addition to the word's or phrase's explicit or literal meaning, which is its denotation....

 term for any working environment
Workplace
The workplace is a place where someone works.*Toxic workplace*Workplace aggression: A specific type of aggression that occurs in the workplace....

 considered to be unacceptably difficult or dangerous. Sweatshop workers often work long hours for very low pay, regardless of laws mandating overtime pay or a minimum wage
Minimum wage
A minimum wage is the lowest hourly, daily or monthly remuneration that employers may legally pay to workers. Equivalently, it is the lowest wage at which workers may sell their labour. Although minimum wage laws are in effect in a great many jurisdictions, there are differences of opinion about...

. Child labour laws may be violated. Sweatshops may have hazardous materials and situations. Employees may be subject to employer abuse without an easy way to protect themselves.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office
Government Accountability Office
The Government Accountability Office is the audit, evaluation, and investigative arm of the United States Congress. It is located in the legislative branch of the United States government.-History:...

 defines a sweatshop as an employer that violates more than one federal or state labor law governing minimum wage and overtime, child labor, industrial homework, occupational safety and health, worker’s compensation or industry regulation.

History

While many workplaces through history have been crowded, dangerous, low-paying, and without job security, the concept of a sweatshop has its origins between 1830 and 1850 as a specific type of workshop in which a certain type of middleman, the sweater, directed others in garment making (the process of producing clothing), under arduous conditions.The terms sweater for the middleman and sweating system for the process of subcontracting piecework were used in early critiques like Charles Kingsley
Charles Kingsley
Charles Kingsley was an English priest of the Church of England, university professor, historian and novelist, particularly associated with the West Country and northeast Hampshire.-Life and character:...

's Cheap Clothes and Nasty, written in 1850, which described conditions in London, England. The workplaces created for the sweating system were called sweatshops, and variously comprised workplaces of only a few workers, or as many as 100 or more.

In the sweatshop of 1850, the role of the sweater as middleman and subcontractor (or sub-subcontractor) was considered key, because he served to keep workers isolated in small workshops. This isolation made workers unsure of their supply of work, and unable to organize against their true employer through collective bargaining. Instead, tailors or other clothing retailers would subcontract tasks to the sweater, who in turn might subcontract to another sweater, who would ultimately engage workers at a piece rate
Piece work
Piece work is any type of employment in which a worker is paid a fixed "piece rate" for each unit produced or action performed regardless of time...

 for each article of clothing or seam produced. Kingsley asserted that the middleman made his profit by finding the most desperate workers, including immigrants from Ireland, women and children, who could be paid an absolute minimum. While workers who produced many pieces could earn more, less productive workers earned so little that critics termed their pay starvation wages. Employment was risky: injured or sick workers would be quickly replaced by others.

Between 1850 and 1900, sweatshops attracted the rural poor to rapidly-growing cities, and attracted immigrants to places like London, England and New York City's garment district, located near the tenement
Tenement
A tenement is, in most English-speaking areas, a substandard multi-family dwelling, usually old, occupied by the poor.-History:Originally the term tenement referred to tenancy and therefore to any rented accommodation...

s of New York's Lower East Side
Lower East Side
The Lower East Side, LES, is a neighborhood in the southeastern part of the New York City borough of Manhattan. It is roughly bounded by Allen Street, East Houston Street, Essex Street, Canal Street, Eldridge Street, East Broadway, and Grand Street....

. Wherever they were located, sweatshops also attracted critics and labour leaders who cited them as crowded, poorly ventilated, and prone to fires and rat
Rat
Rats are various medium-sized, long-tailed rodents of the superfamily Muroidea. "True rats" are members of the genus Rattus, the most important of which to humans are the black rat, Rattus rattus, and the brown rat, Rattus norvegicus...

 infestations, since much of the work was done by many people crowded into small tenement rooms.

In the 1890's a group calling itself the National Anti-Sweating League
National Anti-Sweating League
The National Anti-Sweating League is the name adopted by two groups of social reformers in Australia and Britain at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. Both campaigned against the poor conditions endured by many workers in so-called Sweatshops and called for a Minimum wage.-Australia:The...

 was formed in Melbourne, Australia and campaigned successfully for a minimum wage
Minimum wage
A minimum wage is the lowest hourly, daily or monthly remuneration that employers may legally pay to workers. Equivalently, it is the lowest wage at which workers may sell their labour. Although minimum wage laws are in effect in a great many jurisdictions, there are differences of opinion about...

 via trade boards. A group with the same name campaigned from 1906 in the UK, resulting in the Trade Boards Act 1909
Trade Boards Act 1909
The Trade Boards Act 1909 was a piece of social legislation passed in the United Kingdom in 1909. It provided for the creation of boards which could set minimum wage criteria that were legally enforceable...

.

In 1910, the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union
International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union
The International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union was once one of the largest labor unions in the United States, one of the first U.S. unions to have a primarily female membership, and a key player in the labor history of the 1920s and 1930s...

 was founded in an effort to improve the condition of these workers.

Criticism of garment sweatshops became a major force behind workplace safety regulation and labor laws. As some journalists strove to change working conditions, the term sweatshop came to describe a broader set of workplaces whose conditions were considered inferior. In the United States, investigative journalists
Investigative journalism
Investigative journalism is a form of journalism in which reporters deeply investigate a single topic of interest, often involving crime, political corruption, or corporate wrongdoing. An investigative journalist may spend months or years researching and preparing a report. Investigative journalism...

, known as Muckraker
Muckraker
The term muckraker is closely associated with reform-oriented journalists who wrote largely for popular magazines, continued a tradition of investigative journalism reporting, and emerged in the United States after 1900 and continued to be influential until World War I, when through a combination...

s, wrote exposés of business practices, and progressive
Progressivism in the United States
Progressivism in the United States is a broadly based reform movement that reached its height early in the 20th century and is generally considered to be middle class and reformist in nature. It arose as a response to the vast changes brought by modernization, such as the growth of large...

 politicians campaigned for new laws. Notable exposés of sweatshop conditions include Jacob Riis
Jacob Riis
Jacob August Riis was a Danish American social reformer, "muckraking" journalist and social documentary photographer. He is known for using his photographic and journalistic talents to help the impoverished in New York City; those impoverished New Yorkers were the subject of most of his prolific...

' photo documentary How the Other Half Lives
How the Other Half Lives
How the Other Half Lives: Studies Among the Tenements of New York was an early publication of photojournalism by Jacob Riis, documenting squalid living conditions in New York City slums in the 1880s...

and Upton Sinclair
Upton Sinclair
Upton Beall Sinclair Jr. , was an American author who wrote close to one hundred books in many genres. He achieved popularity in the first half of the twentieth century, acquiring particular fame for his classic muckraking novel, The Jungle . It exposed conditions in the U.S...

's book, The Jungle
The Jungle
The Jungle is a 1906 novel written by journalist Upton Sinclair. Sinclair wrote the novel with the intention of portraying the life of the immigrant in the United States, but readers were more concerned with the large portion of the book pertaining to the corruption of the American meatpacking...

about the meat packing industry
Meat packing industry
The meat packing industry handles the slaughtering, processing, packaging, and distribution of animals such as cattle, pigs, sheep and other livestock...

.

In 1911, negative public perceptions of sweatshops were galvanized by the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire
Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire
The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York City on March 25, 1911, was the deadliest industrial disaster in the history of the city of New York and resulted in the fourth highest loss of life from an industrial accident in U.S. history...

 in New York City. The pivotal role of this time and place is chronicled at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, part of the Lower East Side Tenement National Historic Site
Lower East Side Tenement National Historic Site
The Lower East Side Tenement Museum features a five-story brick tenement building that was home to an estimated 7,000 people, from over 20 nations, between 1863 and 1935. This building, located at 97 Orchard Street on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in New York City, is a National Historic Site...

. While trade unions, minimum wage
Minimum wage
A minimum wage is the lowest hourly, daily or monthly remuneration that employers may legally pay to workers. Equivalently, it is the lowest wage at which workers may sell their labour. Although minimum wage laws are in effect in a great many jurisdictions, there are differences of opinion about...

 laws, fire safety
Fire safety
Fire safety refers to precautions that are taken to prevent or reduce the likelihood of a fire that may result in death, injury, or property damage, alert those in a structure to the presence of a fire in the event one occurs, better enable those threatened by a fire to survive, or to reduce the...

 codes, and labour laws have made sweatshops (in the original sense) rarer in the developed world, they did not eliminate them, and the term came to be increasingly associated with factories in the developing world.

In a report issued in 1994, the United States Government Accountability Office
Government Accountability Office
The Government Accountability Office is the audit, evaluation, and investigative arm of the United States Congress. It is located in the legislative branch of the United States government.-History:...

 found that there were still thousands of sweatshops in the United States, using a definition of a sweatshop as any "employer that violates more than one federal or state labour law governing minimum wage and overtime, child labour, industrial homework
Homeworker
Homeworkers or home workers are defined by the International Labour Organization as people working from their homes or from other premises of their choosing other than the workplace, for remuneration, which results of a product or service specified by the employer...

, occupational safety and health, workers' compensation, or industry registration". This recent definition eliminates any historical distinction about the role of a middleman or the items produced, and focuses on the legal standards of developed country workplaces. An area of controversy between supporters of outsourcing production to the Third World
Third World
The term Third World arose during the Cold War to define countries that remained non-aligned with either capitalism and NATO , or communism and the Soviet Union...

 and the anti-sweatshop movement is whether such standards can or should be applied to the workplaces of the developing world.

Sweatshops are also sometimes implicated in human trafficking
Human trafficking
Human trafficking is the illegal trade of human beings for the purposes of reproductive slavery, commercial sexual exploitation, forced labor, or a modern-day form of slavery...

 when workers have been tricked into starting work without informed consent
Informed consent
Informed consent is a phrase often used in law to indicate that the consent a person gives meets certain minimum standards. As a literal matter, in the absence of fraud, it is redundant. An informed consent can be said to have been given based upon a clear appreciation and understanding of the...

, or when workers are kept at work through debt bondage
Debt bondage
Debt bondage is when a person pledges him or herself against a loan. In debt bondage, the services required to repay the debt may be undefined, and the services' duration may be undefined...

 or mental duress, all of which are more likely in cases where the workforce is drawn from children or the uneducated rural poor. Because they often exist in places without effective workplace safety or environmental laws, sweatshops sometimes injure their workers or the environment at greater rates than would be acceptable in developed countries. Sometimes penal labor facilities (employing prisoners) are grouped under the sweatshop label.

Sweatshops have proved a difficult issue to resolve because their roots lie in the conceptual foundations of the world economy. Developing countries like India, China, Vietnam, Bangladesh and Honduras 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 countries is part of the process known as globalization
Globalization
Globalization refers to the increasingly global relationships of culture, people and economic activity. Most often, it refers to economics: the global distribution of the production of goods and services, through reduction of barriers to international trade such as tariffs, export fees, and import...

, but may also be described as neoliberal
Neoliberalism
Neoliberalism is a market-driven approach to economic and social policy based on neoclassical theories of economics that emphasizes the efficiency of private enterprise, liberalized trade and relatively open markets, and therefore seeks to maximize the role of the private sector in determining the...

 globalization to emphasize the role that free market
Free market
A free market is a competitive market where prices are determined by supply and demand. However, the term is also commonly used for markets in which economic intervention and regulation by the state is limited to tax collection, and enforcement of private ownership and contracts...

 economics plays in outsourcing.

Anti-sweatshop movement

Some of the earliest sweatshop critics were found in the 19th century abolitionist movement that had originally coalesced in opposition to chattel slavery
Slavery
Slavery is a system under which people are treated as property to be bought and sold, and are forced to work. Slaves can be held against their will from the time of their capture, purchase or birth, and deprived of the right to leave, to refuse to work, or to demand compensation...

, and many abolitionists saw similarities between slavery and sweatshop work. As slavery was successively outlawed in industrial countries between 1794 (in France) and 1865 (in the United States), some abolitionists sought to broaden the anti-slavery consensus to include other forms of harsh labor, including sweatshops. As it happened, the first significant law to address sweatshops (the Factory Act of 1833) was passed in the United Kingdom at the same time that the slave trade (1807) and ownership of slaves (1833) were made illegal.

Ultimately, the abolitionist movement split apart. Some advocates focused on working conditions and found common cause with trade unions and Marxists and socialist political groups, or progressive movement and the muckraker
Muckraker
The term muckraker is closely associated with reform-oriented journalists who wrote largely for popular magazines, continued a tradition of investigative journalism reporting, and emerged in the United States after 1900 and continued to be influential until World War I, when through a combination...

s. Others focused on the continued slave trade and involuntary servitude
Involuntary servitude
Involuntary servitude is a United States legal and constitutional term for a person laboring against that person's will to benefit another, under some form of coercion other than the worker's financial needs...

 in the colonial world. For those groups that remained focused on slavery, sweatshops became one of the primary objects of controversy. Workplaces across multiple sectors of the economy were categorized as sweatshops. However, there were fundamental philosophical disagreements about what constituted slavery. Unable to agree on the status of sweatshops, the abolitionists working with the League of Nations
League of Nations
The League of Nations was an intergovernmental organization founded as a result of the Paris Peace Conference that ended the First World War. It was the first permanent international organization whose principal mission was to maintain world peace...

 and the United Nations ultimately backed away from efforts to define slavery, and focused instead on a common precursor of slavery – human trafficking
Human trafficking
Human trafficking is the illegal trade of human beings for the purposes of reproductive slavery, commercial sexual exploitation, forced labor, or a modern-day form of slavery...

.

Those focused on working conditions included Friedrich Engels
Friedrich Engels
Friedrich Engels was a German industrialist, social scientist, author, political theorist, philosopher, and father of Marxist theory, alongside Karl Marx. In 1845 he published The Condition of the Working Class in England, based on personal observations and research...

, whose book The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844
The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844
The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844 is one of the best-known works of Friedrich Engels.Originally written in German as Die Lage der arbeitenden Klasse in England, it is a study of the working class in Victorian England. It was also Engels' first book, written during his stay in...

would inspire the Marxist movement named for his collaborator, Karl Marx
Karl Marx
Karl Heinrich Marx was a German philosopher, economist, sociologist, historian, journalist, and revolutionary socialist. His ideas played a significant role in the development of social science and the socialist political movement...

. In the United Kingdom the Factory Act was revised six further times between 1844 and 1878 to help improve the condition of workers by limiting work hours and the use of child labor. The formation of the International Labour Organization
International Labour Organization
The International Labour Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations that deals with labour issues pertaining to international labour standards. Its headquarters are in Geneva, Switzerland. Its secretariat — the people who are employed by it throughout the world — is known as the...

 in 1919 under the League of Nations and then the United Nations sought to address the plight of workers the world over. Concern over working conditions as described by muckraker journalists during the Progressive Era
Progressive Era
The Progressive Era in the United States was a period of social activism and political reform that flourished from the 1890s to the 1920s. One main goal of the Progressive movement was purification of government, as Progressives tried to eliminate corruption by exposing and undercutting political...

 in the United States saw the passage of new workers rights laws and ultimately resulted in the Fair Labor Standards Act
Fair Labor Standards Act
The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 is a federal statute of the United States. The FLSA established a national minimum wage, guaranteed 'time-and-a-half' for overtime in certain jobs, and prohibited most employment of minors in "oppressive child labor," a term that is defined in the statute...

 of 1938, passed during the New Deal
New Deal
The New Deal was a series of economic programs implemented in the United States between 1933 and 1936. They were passed by the U.S. Congress during the first term of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The programs were Roosevelt's responses to the Great Depression, and focused on what historians call...

.

More recently, the anti-globalization movement
Anti-globalization movement
The anti-globalization movement, or counter-globalisation movement, is critical of the globalization of corporate capitalism. The movement is also commonly referred to as the global justice movement, alter-globalization movement, anti-globalist movement, anti-corporate globalization movement, or...

 has arisen in opposition to corporate globalization
Globalization
Globalization refers to the increasingly global relationships of culture, people and economic activity. Most often, it refers to economics: the global distribution of the production of goods and services, through reduction of barriers to international trade such as tariffs, export fees, and import...

, a process by which multinational corporation
Multinational corporation
A multi national corporation or enterprise , is a corporation or an enterprise that manages production or delivers services in more than one country. It can also be referred to as an international corporation...

s move their operations overseas in order to lower their costs and increase profits. The anti-sweatshop movement has much in common with the anti-globalization movement
Anti-globalization movement
The anti-globalization movement, or counter-globalisation movement, is critical of the globalization of corporate capitalism. The movement is also commonly referred to as the global justice movement, alter-globalization movement, anti-globalist movement, anti-corporate globalization movement, or...

. Both consider sweatshops harmful, and both have accused many companies (such as the Walt Disney Company, The Gap, and Nike
Nike, Inc.
Nike, Inc. is a major publicly traded sportswear and equipment supplier based in the United States. The company is headquartered near Beaverton, Oregon, which is part of the Portland metropolitan area...

) of using sweatshops. Some in these movements charge that neoliberal
Neoliberalism
Neoliberalism is a market-driven approach to economic and social policy based on neoclassical theories of economics that emphasizes the efficiency of private enterprise, liberalized trade and relatively open markets, and therefore seeks to maximize the role of the private sector in determining the...

 globalization is similar to the sweating system
Sweating system
Sweating system was a term used to describe an iniquitous system of subcontracting in the tailoring trade which came into prominence around 1848. In contemporary English the term sweatshop has a similar meaning...

, arguing that there tends to be a "race to the bottom
Race to the bottom
A race to the bottom is a socio-economic concept that is argued to occur between countries as an outcome of regulatory competition, progressive taxation policies and social welfare spending...

", as multinationals leap from one low-wage country to another searching for lower production costs, in the same way that sweaters would have steered production to the lowest cost sub-contractor.

Various groups support or embody the anti-sweatshop movement today. The National Labor Committee brought sweatshops into the mainstream media in the 1990s when it exposed the use of sweatshop and child labor to sew Kathie Lee Gifford's Wal-Mart label. United Students Against Sweatshops
United Students Against Sweatshops
United Students Against Sweatshops is a student organization with chapters at over 250 colleges and universities in the United States and Canada. In April 2000, USAS founded the Worker Rights Consortium , an independent monitoring organization that investigates labor conditions in factories that...

 is active on college campuses. The International Labor Rights Fund
International Labor Rights Fund
The International Labor Rights Forum is a nonprofit advocacy organization headquartered in Washington, DC that describes itself as "an advocate for and with the working poor around the world". ILRF, formerly the International Labor Rights Education & Research Fund, was founded in 1986...

 filed a lawsuit on behalf of workers in China, Nicaragua, Swaziland, Indonesia, and Bangladesh against Wal-Mart charging the company with knowingly developing purchasing policies particularly relating to price and delivery time that are impossible to meet while following the Wal-Mart code of conduct. Labor unions, such as the AFL-CIO
AFL-CIO
The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, commonly AFL–CIO, is a national trade union center, the largest federation of unions in the United States, made up of 56 national and international unions, together representing more than 11 million workers...

, have helped support the anti-sweatshop movement out of concern both for the welfare of workers in the developing world and those in the United States.

Critics point out that sweatshop workers often do not earn enough money to buy the products that they make, even though such items are often commonplace goods such as t-shirts, shoes, and toys. In 2003, Honduran garment factory workers were paid US$0.24 for each $50 Sean John
Sean John
Sean John Clothing Inc is a clothing and fragrance company owned by hip-hop mogul Sean Combs. The apparel company takes its name from Combs' first and middle given names....

 sweatshirt, $0.15 for each long-sleeved t-shirt, and only five cents for each short-sleeved shirt – less than one-half of one percent of the retail price. Even comparing international costs of living, the $0.15 that a Honduran worker earned for the long-sleeved t-shirt was equal in purchasing power
Purchasing power
Purchasing power is the number of goods/services that can be purchased with a unit of currency. For example, if you had taken one dollar to a store in the 1950s, you would have been able to buy a greater number of items than you would today, indicating that you would have had a greater purchasing...

 to $0.50 in the United States.

Critics of sweatshops cite high savings, increased capital investment in developing nations, diversification of their exports and their status as trade ports as the reason for their economic success rather than sweatshops and cite the numerous cases in the East Asian "Tiger Economies" where sweatshops have reduced living standards and wages. They believe that better-paying jobs, increased capital investment and domestic ownership of resources will improve the economies of sub-Saharan Africa rather than sweatshops. They point to good labor standards developing strong manufacturing export sectors in wealthier sub-Saharan countries such as Mauritius and believe measures like these will improve economic conditions in developing nations.

Critics of sweatshops argue that the minor gains made by employee of some of these institutions are outweighed by the negative costs such as lowered wages to increase profit margins and that the institutions pay less than the daily expenses of their workers. They also point to the fact that sometimes local jobs offered higher wages before trade liberalization provided tax incentives to allow sweatshops to replace former local unionized jobs. They further contend that sweatshop jobs are not necessarily inevitable. Eric Toussaint claims that quality of life in developing countries was actually higher between 1945–1980 before the international debt crisis of 1982 harmed economies in developing countries causing them to turn to IMF and World Bank-organized "structural adjustments" and that unionized jobs pay more than sweatshop ones overall – "several studies of workers producing for US firms in Mexico are instructive: workers at the Aluminum Company of America’s Ciudad Acuna plant earn between $21.44 and $24.60 per week, but a weekly basket of basic food items costs $26.87. Mexican GM workers earn enough to buy a pound of apples in 30 minutes of work, while GM workers in the US earn as much in 5 minutes." People critical of sweatshops believe that "free trade agreements" do not truly promote free trade at all but instead seek to protect multinational corporations from competition by local industries (which are sometimes unionized). They believe free trade should only involve reducing tariffs and barriers to entry and that multinational businesses should operate within the laws in the countries they want to do business in rather than seeking immunity from obeying local environmental and labor laws. They believe these conditions are what give rise to sweatshops rather than natural industrialization or economic progression.

Critics also point to the fact that sweatshops often do not pay taxes and thus don't pay for the public services they use for production and distribution and don't contribute to the country's tax revenue. In some countries, such as China, it is not uncommon for these institutions to withhold workers' pay.
Furthermore, critics of sweatshops point to the fact that those in the West who defend sweatshops show double standards by complaining about sweatshop labor conditions in countries considered enemies or hostile by Western governments, such as China, while still gladly consuming their exports but complaining about the quality. They contend that multinational jobs should be expected to operate according to international labor and environmental laws and minimum wage standards like businesses in the West do.

Pro-sweatshop arguments

In 1997, economist Jeffrey Sachs
Jeffrey Sachs
Jeffrey David Sachs is an American economist and Director of The Earth Institute at Columbia University. One of the youngest economics professors in the history of Harvard University, Sachs became known for his role as an adviser to Eastern European and developing country governments in the...

 said, "My concern is not that there are too many sweatshops, but that there are too few." Sachs and other proponents of sweatshops cite the economic theory of comparative advantage
Comparative advantage
In economics, the law of comparative advantage says that two countries will both gain from trade if, in the absence of trade, they have different relative costs for producing the same goods...

, which states that international trade
International trade
International trade is the exchange of capital, goods, and services across international borders or territories. In most countries, such trade represents a significant share of gross domestic product...

 will, in the long run, make all parties better off. The theory holds that developing countries improve their condition by doing something that they do "better" than industrialized nations (in this case, they charge less but do the same work). Developed countries will also be better off because their workers can shift to jobs that they do better. These are jobs that some economists say usually entail a level of education and training that is exceptionally difficult to obtain in the developing world. Thus, economists like Sachs say, developing countries get factories and jobs that they would not otherwise. Some would say with this situation occurs when developing countries try to increase wages because sweatshops tend to just get moved on to a new state that is more welcoming. This leads to a situation where states often will not try to get increased wages for sweatshop workers for fear of losing investment and boosted GDP. However, this only means average wages around the world will increase at a steady rate. A nation only gets left behind if it demands wages higher than the current market price for that labor.

When asked about the working condition in sweatshops, proponents say that although wages and working conditions may appear inferior by the standards of developed nations, they are actually improvements over what the people in developing countries had before. It is said that if jobs in such factories did not improve their workers' standard of living
Standard of living
Standard of living is generally measured by standards such as real income per person and poverty rate. Other measures such as access and quality of health care, income growth inequality and educational standards are also used. Examples are access to certain goods , or measures of health such as...

, those workers would not have taken the jobs when they appeared. It is also often pointed out that, unlike in the industrialized world, the sweatshops are not replacing high-paying jobs. Rather, sweatshops offer an improvement over subsistence farming and other back-breaking tasks, or even prostitution, trash picking, or starvation
Starvation
Starvation is a severe deficiency in caloric energy, nutrient and vitamin intake. It is the most extreme form of malnutrition. In humans, prolonged starvation can cause permanent organ damage and eventually, death...

 by unemployment.

The absence of the work opportunities provided by sweatshops can quickly lead to malnourishment or starvation. After the Child Labor Deterrence Act
Child Labor Deterrence Act
The Child Labor Deterrence Act was created by United States Senator of the Democratic Party Tom Harkin of Iowa, and was first proposed in the United States Congress in 1992, with subsequent propositions in 1993, 1995, 1997 and 1999...

 was introduced in the US, an estimated 50,000 children were dismissed from their garment industry jobs in Asia, leaving many to resort to jobs such as "stone-crushing, street hustling, and prostitution." UNICEF's 1997 State of the World's Children study found these alternative jobs "more hazardous and exploitative than garment production."

Writer Johan Norberg
Johan Norberg
Johan Norberg is a Swedish author and historian, devoted to promoting economic globalization and liberal positions. He is arguably most known as the author of In Defense of Global Capitalism...

, a proponent of market economics, points out an irony:
In their Wal-Mart
Wal-Mart
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. , branded as Walmart since 2008 and Wal-Mart before then, is an American public multinational corporation that runs chains of large discount department stores and warehouse stores. The company is the world's 18th largest public corporation, according to the Forbes Global 2000...

 episode, Penn & Teller
Penn & Teller
Penn & Teller are Las Vegas headliners whose act is an amalgam of illusion and comedy. Penn Jillette is a raconteur; Teller generally uses mime while performing, although his voice can occasionally be heard during their performance...

 interview Benjamin Powell, a Professor of Economics from San Jose State University
San José State University
San Jose State University is a public university located in San Jose, California, United States...

. Professor Powell argues that sweatshop-type jobs in a developing country
Developing country
A developing country, also known as a less-developed country, is a nation with a low level of material well-being. Since no single definition of the term developing country is recognized internationally, the levels of development may vary widely within so-called developing countries...

 are often a significant improvement over other employment options (for example, subsistence farming). He further notes that the United States went through its own period of sweatshop labor during its development.
According to an article in Gale Opposing Viewpoints in Context, sweatshops became prevalent in the United States during the Industrial Revolution. As new jobs in factories began to appear, people left the hard life of farming to work in these factories. Although the working conditions and wages in these factories were very poor, the agricultural nature of the economy shifted into a manufacturing one because of this industrialization. Through this new industrialized economy, sufficient wealth was created and a large middle class began to emerge.
The labor movement came about with this rise in the average level of income and factory workers began to demand better wages and working conditions. Through much struggle, workers and advocates were able to achieve basic rights for workers, which included the right to form unions, and negotiate terms such as wages, overtime pay, health insurance, and retirement pensions; and eventually they were also able to attain legal protections such as minimum wage standards, and discrimination and sexual abuse protections. Furthermore, Congress set forth to ensure a minimum set of safety standards were followed in workplaces by passing the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) in 1970. These developments were able to improve working environments for Americans but it was through sweatshops that the economy grew and people were able to accumulate wealth and move out of poverty. As Nobel prize-winning economist Paul Krugman
Paul Krugman
Paul Robin Krugman is an American economist, professor of Economics and International Affairs at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University, Centenary Professor at the London School of Economics, and an op-ed columnist for The New York Times...

 states in a 1997 article for Slate, “as manufacturing grows in poor countries, it creates a ripple effect that benefits ordinary people: ‘The pressure on the land becomes less intense, so rural wages rise; the pool of unemployed urban dwellers always anxious for work shrinks, so factories start to compete with each other for workers, and urban wages also begin to rise.’ In time average wages creep up to a level comparable to minimum-wage jobs in the United States.”
In an article about a Nike sweatshop in Vietnam, Johan Norberg wrote, "But when I talk to a young Vietnamese woman, Tsi-Chi, at the factory, it is not the wages she is most happy about. Sure, she makes five times more than she did, she earns more than her husband, and she can now afford to build an extension to her house. But the most important thing, she says, is that she doesn't have to work outdoors on a farm any more... Farming means 10 to 14 hours a day in the burning sun or the intensive rain... The most persistent demand Nike hears from the workers is for an expansion of the factories so that their relatives can be offered a job as well."

According to a November 2001 BBC
BBC
The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters is at Broadcasting House in the City of Westminster, London. It is the largest broadcaster in the world, with about 23,000 staff...

 article, in the previous two months, 100,000 sweatshop workers in Bangladesh had lost their sweatshop jobs. The sweatshop workers wanted their jobs back, and the Bangladeshi government was planning to lobby the U.S. government to repeal its trade barriers so the sweatshop workers could have their jobs back.

A 2005 article in the Christian Science Monitor states, "For example, in Honduras, the site of the infamous Kathy Lee Gifford sweatshop scandal, the average apparel worker earns $13.10 per day, yet 44 percent of the country's population lives on less than $2 per day... In Cambodia, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Honduras, the average wage paid by a firm accused of being a sweatshop is more than double the average income in that country's economy."

On three documented occasions during the 1990s, anti-sweatshop activists in rich countries have apparently caused increases in childhood prostitution in poor countries. In Bangladesh, there was a closure of several sweatshops which had been run by a German company, and as a result, thousands of Bangladeshi children who had been working in those sweatshops ended up working as prostitutes, turning to crime, or starving to death. In Pakistan, several sweatshops, including ones run by Nike
Nike, Inc.
Nike, Inc. is a major publicly traded sportswear and equipment supplier based in the United States. The company is headquartered near Beaverton, Oregon, which is part of the Portland metropolitan area...

, Reebok
Reebok
Reebok International Limited, a subsidiary of the German sportswear company Adidas since 2005, is a producer of Athletic shoes, apparel, and accessories. The name comes from the Afrikaans spelling of rhebok, a type of African antelope or gazelle...

, and other corporations, were closed, which caused those Pakistani children to turn to prostitution. In Nepal, a carpet manufacturing company closed several sweatshops, resulting in thousands of Nepalese girls turning to prostitution.

An October 19, 2008 Associated Press
Associated Press
The Associated Press is an American news agency. The AP is a cooperative owned by its contributing newspapers, radio and television stations in the United States, which both contribute stories to the AP and use material written by its staff journalists...

 article reported about the Chinese citizens complaining about how the current U.S. economic crises had caused them to lose their sweatshop jobs. The article quoted Wang Wenming, who had lost his job at a Dongguan
Dongguan
Dongguan is a prefecture-level city in central Guangdong province, People's Republic of China.An important industrial city located in the Pearl River Delta, Dongguan borders the provincial capital of Guangzhou to the north, Huizhou to the northeast, Shenzhen to the south, and the Pearl River to...

 sweatshop, as saying, "This financial crisis in America is going to kill us. It's already taking food out of our mouths."

Defenders of sweatshops cite Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan as recent examples of countries that benefited from having sweatshops.

Organizations working on the issue

  • Clean Clothes Campaign
    Clean Clothes Campaign
    The Clean Clothes Campaign is the garment industry's largest alliance of labour unions and non-governmental organizations. The civil society campaign focuses on the improvement of working conditions in the garment and sportswear industries...

     international alliance of labor unions and non-governmental organizations
  • International Labor Rights Fund
    International Labor Rights Fund
    The International Labor Rights Forum is a nonprofit advocacy organization headquartered in Washington, DC that describes itself as "an advocate for and with the working poor around the world". ILRF, formerly the International Labor Rights Education & Research Fund, was founded in 1986...

  • International Labour Organization
    International Labour Organization
    The International Labour Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations that deals with labour issues pertaining to international labour standards. Its headquarters are in Geneva, Switzerland. Its secretariat — the people who are employed by it throughout the world — is known as the...

     a specialized agency of the United Nations
  • National Labor Committee  founded to combat sweatshop labor and US government policy in El Salvador and Central America.
  • Green America membership organization based in the United States
  • United Students Against Sweatshops
    United Students Against Sweatshops
    United Students Against Sweatshops is a student organization with chapters at over 250 colleges and universities in the United States and Canada. In April 2000, USAS founded the Worker Rights Consortium , an independent monitoring organization that investigates labor conditions in factories that...

     a student organization in the United States and Canada
  • Free the Children
    Free The Children
    Free The Children is an international charity and youth movement founded in 1995 by children's rights advocate Craig Kielburger. The organization is largely youth-funded, based on the concept of "children helping children." It specializes in sustainable development in countries of Kenya, Ecuador,...

     A Canadian organization that helps raise awareness and put a stop to Child Labour – Also helps other children in need.
  • Reason Foundation
    Reason Foundation
    The Reason Foundation is an American nonprofit think tank founded in 1978 that also publishes Reason magazine. Based in Los Angeles, Reason is self-described as nonpartisan and publishes a statement of values that can best be described as libertarian...

     Founded in 1968, Reason Foundation is a nonprofit organization advancing "free minds and free markets."
  • Not for Sale Campaign

See also

  • Anti-sweatshop
    Anti-sweatshop
    Anti-Sweatshop refers to campaigning movements to improve the conditions of workers in Sweatshops, i.e. manufacturing places characterized by low wages, poor working conditions and often child labor...

  • Assembly line
    Assembly line
    An assembly line is a manufacturing process in which parts are added to a product in a sequential manner using optimally planned logistics to create a finished product much faster than with handcrafting-type methods...

  • Comparative advantage
    Comparative advantage
    In economics, the law of comparative advantage says that two countries will both gain from trade if, in the absence of trade, they have different relative costs for producing the same goods...

  • Contingent work
    Contingent work
    Contingent work, also sometimes known as casual work, is a neologism which describes a type of employment relationship between an employer and employee...

  • Child labour
  • Economic development
    Economic development
    Economic development generally refers to the sustained, concerted actions of policymakers and communities that promote the standard of living and economic health of a specific area...

  • Emerging markets
    Emerging markets
    Emerging markets are nations with social or business activity in the process of rapid growth and industrialization. Based on data from 2006, there are around 28 emerging markets in the world . The economies of China and India are considered to be the largest...

  • Exploitation
    Exploitation
    This article discusses the term exploitation in the meaning of using something in an unjust or cruel manner.- As unjust benefit :In political economy, economics, and sociology, exploitation involves a persistent social relationship in which certain persons are being mistreated or unfairly used for...

  • Export processing zone
  • Game sweatshop
    Game sweatshop
    A game sweatshop is a business concerned with making and selling accounts and in-game currency on MMORPGs for real-world money. The term can also refer to a building containing computers installed with MMORPGs , which generate money for the business...

  • Maquiladora
    Maquiladora
    A maquiladora or maquila is a concept often referred to as an operation that involves manufacturing in a country that is not the client's and as such has an interesting duty or tariff treatment...


  • National Anti-Sweating League
    National Anti-Sweating League
    The National Anti-Sweating League is the name adopted by two groups of social reformers in Australia and Britain at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. Both campaigned against the poor conditions endured by many workers in so-called Sweatshops and called for a Minimum wage.-Australia:The...

  • Nike sweatshops
    Nike sweatshops
    Nike, Inc has been accused of having a history of using sweatshops, a working environment considered by many people to be dangerous and difficult. Workers can be exposed to hazardous materials, harmful situations, extreme temperatures, and abuse from employers. Sweatshop workers often work long...

  • Precarious work
    Precarious work
    Precarious work is a term used to describe non-standard employment which is poorly paid, insecure, unprotected, and cannot support a household. In recent decades there has been a dramatic increase in precarious work due to such factors as: globalization, the shift from the manufacturing sector to...

  • Protectionism
    Protectionism
    Protectionism is the economic policy of restraining trade between states through methods such as tariffs on imported goods, restrictive quotas, and a variety of other government regulations designed to allow "fair competition" between imports and goods and services produced domestically.This...

  • Race to the bottom
    Race to the bottom
    A race to the bottom is a socio-economic concept that is argued to occur between countries as an outcome of regulatory competition, progressive taxation policies and social welfare spending...

  • SA8000
    SA8000
    SA8000 is a global social accountability standard for decent working conditions, developed and overseen by Social Accountability International . Detailed guidance for implementing or auditing to SA8000 are available from its . SAI offers training in SA8000 and other workplace standards to managers,...

     – Social Accountability Certification Scheme for Manufacturing Industry
  • Sweating system
    Sweating system
    Sweating system was a term used to describe an iniquitous system of subcontracting in the tailoring trade which came into prominence around 1848. In contemporary English the term sweatshop has a similar meaning...

  • Union organizer
    Union organizer
    A union organizer is a specific type of trade union member or an appointed union official. A majority of unions appoint rather than elect their organizers....

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
x
OK