What is a Sweatshop?

Sweatshops – this issue has been in the media and our social background since the 1990’s, but what does it actually mean?

While there is no universal definition of sweatshop, there seems to be an unspoken understanding of what the term refers to. In the United States, the Department of Labour defines a sweatshop as a facility that violates two or more basic labour laws. In the face of reality however, this definition is rather weak in telling us exactly what a sweatshop is.

Here at Cut The Sweat, we like to look at a sweatshop as a manufacturing facility that is characterised by poor working conditions, where basic worker’s rights are exploited in fields of safety, treatment and pay. In terms of safety, such exploitation can manifest in working environments that are poorly ventilated, crammed and with very little safety regulations such as fire escapes and capacity limitations.

Typical sweatshop set up. Rows and rows of sewing machine – a production line of people.

In the face of treatment, workers in sweatshops can endure long hours (upwards of 12 a day) with no overtime compensation and proper lunch breaks. Superiors can treat workers poorly by putting pressure on them to work faster, threatening job security as well as initiating physical and sexual advances. One of the more concrete violations however can be seen in the lack of compensation workers are paid in return for their work. It is not uncommon for labourers to receive wages averaging $2 a day. In extreme cases, they could even be paid as low as 10c an hour.

In the Australian workplace, such conditions may seem ludicrous. But it is a reality for millions of people in developing countries. What’s more upsetting is that the workers in these sweatshops are made up primarily of women and children as young as 5 years old, making child labour a very serious auxiliary problem. In fact, it is estimated, that 168 million children worldwide aged 5 – 14 have been recruited as child sweatshop workers.
Just think back to when you were 5, what were you doing? School had barely started and while you were painting and drawing in Kindergarten, some children are slaving away producing the clothes many big fashion chains are selling for major profits.

The lack of regulation overseas makes it extremely easy for large companies to take advantage of this cruel business model. Be aware of what’s happening and remember to be conscious the next time you are shopping!

#CutTheSweat #NoMoreSweatshop #ThinkFairtrade #WearTheRightThing

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