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Saturday, September 23, 2023


Sweatshop ban harms Third World

We’ve all seen Students Against Sweatshops’ banners around campus voicing opposition to the horrors of exploited labor, but offering very little information on both sides of the issue.

When arguing against a certain policy with plans to ultimately remove that policy, an alternative must already be standing on deck, or likely more harm will be done than good. With that, opponents of sweatshops must first view each case holistically.

Sweatshops flourish primarily in economically battered Third World countries where the majority of citizens struggle to stay above the poverty line. The demarcation in this case is entirely ambiguous, but subsistence farming and scavenging is prevalent. For these citizens, the only alternative to working long hours for low pay is not working at all for zero pay.

This previous point cannot be overstressed to those of altruistic intent, who have been sheltered entirely from the issue in the first place – specifically President Obama and his team of labor advisers.

By taking away what is frequently the only available means of income for many sweatshop workers, those workers will then be forced as the result of enacted policy to acquire things by more questionable means.

Crime is already rampant in many of these countries and would likely rise. Human trafficking likewise would shoot up as displaced workers try to make money.

This view holds a certain disdain for exploited labor, but economically speaking, at least until an alternative is presented, sweatshops fill a needed role in these countries.

The question of sweatshop labor refers specifically to foreign factories with low pay and poor health and safety standards where employees choose to work, as opposed to facilities where employees are coerced into working by the threat of violence. Forced labor or labor by coercion is nothing more than slavery, and that, regardless of effect, is reprehensible in every sense.

Most of these arguments stem from enormous growth in the informal labor sector in the event of over-regulation by government, which can actually increase poverty in an already struggling country.

Movements to eradicate sweatshops and thus most of such developing countries’ workforce through labor agreements and such by Obama are unadvisable, simply because it is clear he does not really understand how deep the benefits of this sector run in such countries.

As Nicolas D. Kristof put it in a New York Times opinion piece, ‘Among people who work in development, many strongly believe (but few dare say very loudly) that one of the best hopes for the poorest countries would be to build their manufacturing industries. But global campaigns against sweatshops make that less likely.’

Those not directly involved in the issues they have rule over, and in this case are in the position to make policy for, must not be given free reign to effectively change the lives of millions on the other side of the world.

Daniel Wheeler is a finance and economics sophomore and may be reached at [email protected]

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