I think that by now, most of us can agree that sweatshops are unethical and many believe that they are harmful to all the workers involved. They are mainly known as the product of production in the west being outsourced to eastern countries. We hear the term and one country comes to mind: China. However companies are looking for cheap labour in other places all over the world such as: Bangladesh, Romania, Brazil and Taiwan as well as many more countries that can be found in both eastern and western continents (particularly Asia and South America).

Of course, sweatshops are generally frowned upon. Time and time again we see articles talking about the abuse of workers. They are paid very little, often are not allowed to use the bathroom and are forced to work extremely long and grueling hours. Not to mention women and children being forced to work there. However, I want to offer a bit of an insight and an alternative view on why sweatshops may not be as bad as they are often made out to be in terms of how they impact the people living in the aforementioned countries.   

Firstly, we must consider why the workers end up there in the first place. Often they  tend to be uneducated or poorly educated adults who could not find work elsewhere. We are quick to blame the big corporations such as Nike or Apple but maybe if the education system was improved and made more equitable in those countries not as many people would have to go looking for work in those factories.  The same point can be made for the child worker dilemma. Why are those children not in school? Either because they need to provide for their families or they cannot afford/ there are no spaces for them in the local schools. In either scenario the factories who employ these workers are not to blame.

Many protesters claim that the the idea of sweatshops would not be nearly as bad if the workers were paid a [reasonable] minimum wage. What do you think would happen if this was the case? The factory owner’s costs would rise and then they have to make a choice. Lower profits or making staff redundant. Most likely they are going to get rid of their staff and keep the most efficient ones in order to minimize costs. Remember these people work in a sweatshop for a reason and as a result cannot just walk into another job. Even their chances of finding work at another sweatshop are slim since every other factory owner would be getting rid of their employees at the same rate.

In fact boycotting the products of these factories has the same effects. The big corporations sell less and therefore earn less profit. Before long the factories have to cut production and as a result they would have an excess number of employees and would begin to get rid of them. It is worth mentioning that this has actually been proven. In areas where sweatshops close down we see many more homeless people on the streets in the long run and crime rates tend to rise. Children who otherwise would have been out of school but at least managing to earn money by working are now both out of school and out of work. The latter is of course a worse outcome if we are trying to make the most out of a bad situation.

I am not trying to condone the use of sweatshops nor am I pretending that they are truly socially beneficial to the people of the countries that I have mentioned. However, what I am trying to do is get through the point that just closing down these factories or forcing the employers to pay their staff a minimum wage is just not the right solution. The only real way to fix the problem is to improve other factors within the countries in order to improve the standard of education and provide other routes into employment for the people that would have otherwise ended up as a sweatshop worker.

For as long as we crave cheap products and do little in the way of making sure those countries offer equal opportunities to all their people, sweatshops will continue to exist.

Thank you for reading! Please ask me any questions that you have in the comments and I will be sure to respond.

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