There is no single way to define what a ‘Sweatshop’ actually is but in general the term can be used to describe a workplace where employees are subjected to unfair treatment and exploitation whether than be low wages, long hours, poor conditions of abuse. Sadly for those working in these environments, the vicious nature of them is very much cyclical. With low wages workers barely have enough money to get by, let alone have enough money to improve their lives. Unfoturnaltly for these people, they remain trapped in this continuous loop of exploitation…
The lack of an official definition of a sweatshop and the desire of the employers to keep them secret, it is increasingly difficult to assess to scale of them. This is further compounded by the fear of workers to lose their jobs if anything about working conditions in these factories caught public attention; after all it is unlikely that workers would be compensated with money or new jobs even if the truth took over the headlines!
Large companies often concentrate these sweatshops in LEDC (Less Economically Developed Countries) where citizens are willing to work forhttp://www.greenamerica.org/programs/responsibleshopper/learn_hub.cfm low
rates, long hours in often dangerous surroundings. The 1990’s saw a soar in these factories in Mexico which was followed by poor Asian countries in the 2000’s as companies found these places saturated with those willing to do more, for a lot less.
Many employers argue that by opening factories in these poorer areas they’re providing a person with money for them to help alleviate and avoid a life of poverty, however the miniscule hourly rates are not generally enough for individuals to maintain even the poorest quality of life, let a lone a comfortable one or anything beyond that. Green America’s Corporate Social Responsibility Program Director states that “sweatshop watchdog groups continually find factories that pay illegal wages, lower even than the minimum.” Are the hourly rates really enough when we consider food, drink, sanity, childcare, healthcare, education, bills and mortgages/rent (if they’re fortunate enough to have this!)
Surely it is not unreasonable to ask these large companies, who frequently use sweatshops yet are making such large profits cannot merely raise their hourly rates even a little? Would the average individual not be willing to pay a couple of pounds extra for a pair of shoes had they known that the person on the other hand is getting their fair share. We talk of fair trade for farmers who pick our bananas, chocolate and coffee, we talk of animals rights and how ‘free range’ is SO much better yet we remain ignorant to the goings on behind the items on our back and the poor individuals who work relentlessly to make it. Life would be so much easier if clothes came with ‘sweatshop free’ labels or verification of some sorts like the boxes of Linda McCartney meat-free sausages. Sadly, this is not the case and does not look like it will be for some time and therefore we’re left to do our own research and tune ourselves in to these unrecognised issues.
After watching a documentary about sweatshops I decided to write this post in hope someone will read it and re-evaluate where they source their clothes from. Albeit I have known on their existence for sometime but remained blind and lacked EFFORT to do anything about it. For this I am ashamed.
It is sad that this topic is not touched upon as often, yet everyone seems aware of it. Would you wear a top knowing it was made by a 14 year old in Jordan who has no time for an education and spend her entire wages (which equate to a few pennies for a 17 hours day work) on food for dinner that night that is not enough to feed her family of 6 and buy her mother’s medicine who is sick with a measly cold that she cannot afford to treat. No? You wouldn’t? But wait, aren’t you already?
I really hope this post opens someone’s eyes to the obvious and next time you shop you really consider where you’re sourcing the item from and how it was made. I’ve recently tried to start ‘smart’ shopping by getting more at charity shops, Ebay, swapping with friends and doing increasing research to forever expand my knowledge on what goes on behind our beloved brand closed doors.
If you want to read more, because I realise I have already written a lot, then I’m going to like some really good sites that break things down simply. I’m also going to link to a website that helps you find what brands are the good guys and which ones get the thumbs down from me. Finally there will be listed below some of my favourite ‘cruelty free’ clothing brands and my favourite documentaries to watch if you’re not a big reader…