The Horrific Working Conditions in Sweatshops and the Solutions to Stop the Problem

Topics: Sweatshops

Sweatshop is a term given to workplaces where the working conditions are unacceptable and inhumane. The work can be dangerous with no satisfactory precautions and no guarantee for workers’ safety. The employees must work for long hours, barely no day- offs and the wages are usually lower comparing to the efforts. Children are also the labor source of sweatshop. Sweatshop now is internationally popular, especially in developing countries. Many companies hire the sweatshops to lower the cost of goods and make more benefit.

Because of how it works, sweatshop raised a controversy of business ethic. Whether those companies would make more money or ignore the workers’ labor rights in sweatshop. People also have different opinions about having sweatshop as part of the supply chain. When mentioning about sweatshop, people often think about a horrible place and its poor working condition.

Therefore, many people protest against sweatshop and disagree to have it as one of the supply chains. Sweatshop is known for its poor working condition. There are not enough lights, space or even hygiene area. Some sweatshops cannot show the guarantee for people’s safety. Workers are usually abused. They have to stay at least 11 hours at work without having break and day-off. Maritza Vargas used to be a worker of a factory named BJ&B, which had 3500 garment workers to sew caps for major brands like Nike, Reebok, the Gap and many others. She claimed that the factory violated labor rights including verbal harassment, disrespect from managers, high production quotas but very low wages.

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It was even worse when the factory received high orders, all the employees were locked and not allowed to leave.

Moreover, one of the most controversial case is the Rana Plaza Collapse. The building in Savar, Bangladesh contained 5 garment factories, apartments, and other shops collapsed on the 24* of April, 2013, causing the death of 1130 people. It is worth noting that when the cracks were found in the building, the shops and the banks closed immediately but the garment factories ignored the warnings and workers were forced to attend the work. Even though people who were in charged got the punishment, people are still indignant of how inhumane sweatshop is. Moreover, the price of a product is much more than the cost to the worker. We always see the advertisement saying “up to 75% off selected items!” or sale in many stores to attract customers, but we do not know behind that is the effort of people who work under slave wages.

Many clothes brand like Forever 21, H&M always offer low price and trendy fashion, but the true cost is the employees who made the clothes in those sweatshops are forced to work shifts as long as 14 to 16 hours each day for seven days a week, bringing the total earnings to 15 cents an hour. “…Thus, a garment worker from Bangladesh can toil 14 hours a day, 7 days a week to earn about 14 cents an hour, or approximately 5 cents for sewing a Disney garment that retails for $17.99 in U.S. malls” (283). If we know the true cost of those products, we might not want to purchase them, or trust the manufacturers. For all of those reasons, people have been protesting against the sweatshop for being a part of the supply chain. When we find the information about sweatshop online, we would only the story about how bad sweatshops are, how many employment law sweatshops violate and how many workers are being abused. Meanwhile, sweatshop is alleged to bring advantages. Not one of the benefits, but sometimes something is better than nothing. In many main countries of sweatshop, workers still get paid higher than the average wage of the surrounding area. In the article “Two Cheers for Sweatshops”, the two authors Kristof and Wudun showed us the other side of sweatshop. The authors moved to Asia 14 years ago to do a research about sweatshop in Dongguan, China, and found out that sweatshop is the industrial revolution to reshape Asia.

The workers here are willing to work at sweatshop even though the conditions are harsh and work shifts are long. They earn more money to solve for poverty, so that the actual way to help is that Western customers should buy more sweatshop product, not boycott it. Many years later when the two authors returned, and saw the huge transformation of Dongguan. The factories had improved, wages had risen, and people were getting rid of poverty. Comparing to many other countries like Bangladesh, or Dominican Republic, sweatshop in Asia is a different story. Another story that give us a different point of view about sweatshop is the undercover journalist in a sweatshop. After the Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh, a Canadian journalist decided to work under cover in a sweat factory. Her report shows many appalling conditions of the sweatshop such as too many young children, the back-breaking sitting position. Interestingly, she was assigned to work under the supervisor who is a 9-year old girl named Meem. Meem left school and got this job to support her family. Even though the job was “back-breaking, finger-numbing” for children to work for long hour, Meem was cheerful indeed because the little girl was able to work and earn money for herself, rather than being sold or forced to get married. It is a reality that in many developing countries like Bangladesh, people are still struggling with employment and finding a stable job is not simple.

Furthermore, many families could not afford for their children to get education so the kids easily become the victims of social evils, which is uncontrollably popular in those countries. Thus, in one way or another, sweatshop provides jobs and money for people living in developing countries. Customers in Western also get the benefit from sweatshop because the companies could keep the price of products low. For all of those pros and cons, the question is “Should sweatshop still be a part of the supply chain?”. From my perspective, I do not support sweatshops. When I briefly read sweatshop, I already feel how badly it violates the human right. There is no right to force people to work under that poor condition, which can’t even assure the safety and basic human needs. There is no place in this world that people are forced to stay at work continuously without moving around or taking a break. Those employees at sweatshops are working as slaves and victims of labor exploitation. Sadly, most of those victims are children and women, who should be protected and respected in this world. The sweatshop stories are such inhumane that I barely can believe workers are still being treated that way nowadays.

Moreover, in the economic side, companies hired sweatshops because they want to cut cost of goods and labor cost to stay competitive since clothing industry has been reported reducing for years. In fact, cheaper price is just one of the factors that customers consider when they shop and customers are mostly not willing to pay for products made in sweatshops. Consumers are actually willing to pay 15% more of the product’s price to ensure it is not produced in a sweatshop (Hickel 5). Lastly, sweatshops do not help workers to improve their economic condition. The majority of their paycheck goes on food for their families to survive. In a 2003 national labor Committee report, a Honduran worker sewing clothes for Walmart was paid only 43 cents per hour. She has only 80 cents left per day for rent, bills, child care, education, medicines with other expenses after spending on meals and transportation to work.

That amount is not surprisingly under the living wage. In addition, when the companies are pressing in cost-cutting measures, the workers are in worse condition instead of being better off. As many people in my country are work exported, I have heard many stories about how some of the companies exploited their workers. I honestly disagree with having sweatshops in the supply chain. I’d rather pay a little more than buying a product made in sweatshops or child labor. On the other hand, eliminating sweatshops is not as simple as it seems because of its popularity all around the world. Therefore, alternative solutions are needed to help those poor workers in sweatshops. Firstly, fixing the working condition is one of the suggestions. Companies must assure that the workplace is safe for the employees, also provides enough basic human needs such as foods or water, hygiene area or enough lights to have higher job quality. Companies must pay workers a living wage as well. In order to meet the requirement of labor law, workers should have an enough income to make a living, taking care of their family and plan for better future.

Last but not least, workers must be respected at workplace. They deserve the right to freely associate and advocate for rights to their working conditions and benefits. If the companies are not be able to fix the problems, sweatshop should be totally boycotted from the supply chain. Global competition and the greed of corporations to produce goods at the lowest possible price are the main reasons for the existence of sweatshops. Nonetheless, sweatshop does not satisfy business ethic because it deeply violates elemental labor rights. It is insupportable that companies are making profit by abusing those workers. By focusing on the pros and cons, I do not support sweatshop as a part of supply chain, but it also could be only if its cruel problems are improved. Boycotting sweatshops is not easy, but I hope in the future sweatshops ethically provide jobs and help poor people in developing countries, rather than exploiting the labor like now.

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The Horrific Working Conditions in Sweatshops and the Solutions to Stop the Problem. (2023, May 16). Retrieved from

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