Updated: Dec 26, 2022
Sweatshops may not be the evil spawns of capitalism that people make them out to be; instead, they are economically beneficial to the global economy because they provide opportunities for advancement. Factory owners in developing countries offer an alternative to more grueling tasks, leaving the workers better off. In developed countries, the use of sweatshop labor boosts the standard of living by making products more accessible and affordable to domestic buyers.
Many people villainize sweatshops for their exploitative and unethical nature, which is one of the main reasons that they decide to protest against certain companies. However, they also fail to consider the extent to which these businesses take control over working conditions. Fashion Nova—a company receiving backlash for its use of sweatshops—works with hundreds of manufacturers, but it does not control the wages the individual vendors dole out. The general public is not well-informed enough about sweatshops to judge the implications holistically. From a moral standpoint, this labor is suboptimal. On the other hand, in what Claude-Frédéric Bastiat would call an unseen effect, developing countries get the chance to advance and modernize.
Sweatshops serve as a crucial alternative for people in third-world countries where the other choices include working in agriculture or rag-picking. When weighing the options, sweatshops offer better conditions: these workers generally receive better pay and have lower injury rates, indicating that this labor is relatively safer than the alternatives. In many of these low-income countries, the majority of people live off less than $2 a day, while the sweatshop laborers in the same countries make earnings above this line. What is important to note is that most workers voluntarily seek jobs in sweatshops. These people recognize the value in doing so; they can acquire financial benefits and advantages over others facing poverty, unemployment, and those earning less while doing exhausting tasks. Although their options are limited due to the looming threat of poverty, they choose to work in these conditions - because sweatshop labor is the best viable option for them.
Anti-sweatshop campaigners all point to the same moral argument: these factories are unethical because of the long working hours and desperately-inadequate wages. However, they do not understand that many of these developing countries’ workers seek better earnings and conditions in the very places that are bombarded with ignorant criticism. It is unreasonable to compare these factories to the status quo and morals of the west. Instead, they need to acknowledge what few options the people in third-world countries have and how sweatshop labor offers them a way out of poverty.
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