This topic will be one of the hardest to quantify in our efforts to minimise the consumption of sweatshop-produced goods. How do we know for sure our clothes are made in a sweatshop? And how do we know for sure that we’re not funding the cycle of unfair human labour?
It’s obscure, especially in our increasingly globalised world – but where your clothes are made plays a major role in its potential to be sweatshop-prone.
Sweatshops typically operate in third-word nations were large companies are able to take advantage of loose labour laws.
Bangladesh remains one of the world’s biggest manufacturer and exporter of textiles items, a large majority of which are fashion goods for large international brands. On the surface this may sound great for the nation’s economy, however, most, if not all of the manufacturing plants in the country are sweatshops. In an exceptional example of safety negligence, Bangladesh made worldwide headlines after the collapse of an eight-storey factory building in 2013. Killing over 1100 people and injuring another 2000, the Rana Plaza as it was known operated without a safety certificate housing a number of clothing manufacturing spaces. Despite this dire reminder for change, Bangladesh continues to be the word’s second largest textiles exporter.
Vietnam. Vietnam’s sweatshop situation should only be heard of in crime fiction. In some of the nation’s poorest provinces, trafficking gangs recruit children into sweatshop factories in Ho Chi Minh City where they are forced to work with the risk of being beaten or hit. Charity factory raids in 2012 exposed these horrific conditions, however, the cycle continues as authorities turn a blind eye to these human rights abuses.
Similar situations have been exposed in other developing countries such as Cambodia, China, Mexico, Indonesia and Turkey.
Pay attention to your clothing tags and look out for the “made in” label. Are the clothes you’re buying potentially made in Sweatshops? Think fair trade. Don’t shop the Sweat.
Check out the The Anti-Sweatshop League to see the world’s most sweatshop-prone areas according to vulnerable economies that heavily rely on sweatshop factory work.