Sweatshop places such as South East Asia. It

Sweatshop is a general term that ultimately describes poor working
conditions in terms of environment, hours and wages. Modern day sweatshops are
found globally, but producer driven commodity chains such as garments or
footwear have led to companies outsourcing to places such as South East Asia.
It is here that an abundance of low wage factories producing these commodities
can be found (Gereffi 1999). The fact that these sweatshop factories exist seems
to suggest that the benefits of working exceed the consequences of unemployment
for local workers. The conditions of employment have raised debate over this
somewhat intuitive statement. This essay will discuss some reasons why although
morally and ethically sweatshops raise many questions, they often outweigh the option
of unemployment.

Misconceptions

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Zwolinski (2007) argued
that workers should have the autonomy to decide to work in a sweatshop with
minimal interference from any source, such as organisations in the western
world calling for the termination of sweatshop factories. The Child Labour
Deterrence Act of 1993 is an often-cited incident in this topic. It saw US
senator Tom Harkin drive a bill prohibiting the importation of commodities that
are produced by child labour. This lead to panic in the garment industry and
the subsequent termination of employment of an estimated 50,000 child workers
(United States Department of Labour, 2013) from sweatshops in Bangladesh. A UNICEF
report (1997) cited a study into the lives of the dismissed child workers and
found that in general their conditions worsened, with many working in factories
with lower pay and bad conditions, and some entering prostitution. This act although
admirable had negative outcomes and is an example of how western interference
and removal of the sweatshop industry can yield negative results for the
workforce. It links to Zwolinski’s (2007) idea that the choice of a sweatshop
is essential and interfering with that choice is not in the best interests of
the workers, with the option of sweatshop employment better than none.

Education

80% of Bangladesh’s total exports come from the garments industry.
(Economy Watch, 2015). A report from the International Labour Organisation
showed that wages in the garment industry of Bangladesh were some of the lowest
in the world and importantly, lower than other large scale exporters such as
China or India (International Labour Organization, 2014). Unsurprisingly, Multi
National Enterprises (MNE) -particularly those operating on buyer driven
commodity chains – have taken interest in the cheap wages of Bangladesh and set
up sweat shop factories here. Children make up a significant portion of the
workforce with 4.7 million children aged 5-14 classified as “working children”
according to UNICEF (2009). A problem often associated with a child working is
that education tends to suffer as a result. Heath and Mobarak (2011) studied the
relationship between garment factories and education and disproved this. They
compared the effects that both 1) a  government
driven initiative known as the “Female Stipend Program”, which gives financial
support to parents keeping their daughters in school, and 2) garment factories
had on Female school enrolment. The study found that when a garment factory was
located in close proximity to a village, the village saw on average a 13.29%
increase in female school enrolment whereas the Female Stipend Program has a
negligible effect. This therefore refutes the notion that a sweatshop hinders a
child’s development and potential for career progression in later life.

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