Sweatshops: Wage and Labor Conditions

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Sweatshops
Global economics operate at an extremely expedient pace. Producing goods and services efficiently and quickly is the focus of thousands of corporations. These corporations are constantly competing to gain an advantage that will increase profits. Opportunities for capital investment and expansion are discovered daily. Unfortunately, many times these massive corporations can be linked to unjust labor practices occurring in developing countries. Companies such as Nike, Microsoft, and Apple have all had to handle claims that their factories or subsidiaries violate various labor laws. Situations such as these exist across the globe. Basic human rights are violated and vulnerable individuals are thrust into a life style that no person desires. However, are there implicit benefits for all parties involved? Some believe these conditions are necessary for profitable production. Others protest the severe exploitation of individuals from developing countries. Regardless of a particular position, it is crucial that sweatshops be investigated for economic efficiency and moral justification.

The term sweatshop has been in society for many generations. In actuality it is a term that is hard to define. Often times a sweatshop does not want to be discovered. The factories are not highly publicized or placed in the public eye. The U.S. General Accounting Office defines a sweatshop as “any employer who violates more than one federal or state labor law” (Wiki). However, it is often difficult to measure the magnitude of sweatshops around the world because they do not want to be classified as such. By definition, a sweatshop is a factory or manufacturer that is operating illegally under federal or local labor laws. One problem that arises with this definition is that there are different laws and regulations for different countries. Enforcement of stricter labor laws may not be plausible in countries that have a larger concentration of sweatshops. These labor violations are often coupled with human rights violations. For example, people can be forced to work 15-hour shifts meticulously constructing various products. They may only be allowed two bathroom breaks and two quick meals. (MIT). The conditions workers are placed in compromise health, welfare, and morale. Economically, many individuals have no recourse to these factory jobs and are thus forced to enter a seemingly endless cycle of exhaustion. The violation of human rights is the underlying constant that connects sweatshops across the world. Some countries may have different laws pertaining to how long shifts may be or what minimum wage is, but when considering basic humane practices, it does not matter what the country’s specific laws state. Human rights violations are violations regardless of where the sweatshop may be located. It comes as no secret that these labor practices stem from the desire to produce products at the lowest cost. Low costs result in increased profits for corporations around the world. The goal of any business is to increase the bottom line. Subsequently, as corporations benefit, so do millions of consumers who pay less for luxury items. For example, thousands of technological instruments, such as the iPhone, iPod, and iPad, are assembled in Chinese mega-factories (Balfour). Nike, Adidas, and Reebok are just a few of the leading apparel manufacturers who have factories in Indonesia, Vietnam, and China. Statistics from 2009 reveal that China itself exported $128.5 billion in simply apparel and footwear. The United States alone imported nearly a quarter of these products (USCBC). The individuals who make these products are often unable to purchase the item they assemble day in and day out. Massive assembly lines exist across South East Asia, wherein workers toil at astounding paces. For example, the Chinese manufacturer Foxconn employs over 900,000 people. In one factory, the workers can produce close to 90 iPads per minute (Balfour). Information such as...
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