The Ethical Debate on Sweatshop Labor

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An Ethical Debate for Sweatshop Labor Business ethics seeks to address issues that arise while doing business internationally. Not all states enforce ethical standards for business. Consequently, the global community regards the conditions Of workers in certain states, particularly in the developing world, to be in direct violation of human rights. With the emergence of globalization, there are now low transaction and communication costs driven by advances in computer and telecommunication technologies; therefore, making the global market truly global.

In the production of shoes, clothing and other commodity goods, business conducted internationally is now more the norm rather than an exception. This emergence has given rise to an issue known as Sweatshop Labor. The United States General Accounting Office defines a sweatshop as a “workplace that violates more than one federal or state labor law governing minimum wage and overtime, child labor, industrial homework, occupational health and safety, workers’ compensation or industry regulations. While human rights activists and others have argued that a sweatshop is any workplace where the employees are exploited by not providing them with infinite, acceptable working conditions, or a living wage. A living wage is different from a minimum wage because it covers the costs of basic necessities to survive, which minimum wage does not cover. Both definitions agree that the working conditions within sweatshops should be improved; however, activists and other critics can often overlook the benefits of having a factory in these developing countries.

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In today’s highly globalizes and competitive economy, top producers of shoes and clothing constantly search for ways to reduce their cost of production and maximize their profits. In order to do so, these multinational reparations place their factories in underdeveloped or developing countries like India and China where there are few legal protections for employees. These countries often disregard worker health and safety, and government taxation on foreign investment is minimal in order to attract business from multinational corporations.

In most circumstances, the practices that take place in the sweatshops are far from humane. Although the managers of sweatshops abide by the local law, sweatshop workers do not receive a living wage, work long and strenuous shifts and are almost never paid overtime. For example, one of the annotated factories of Nikkei paid their workers as little as 52 per day while living cost was $4 per day. Secondly, workers of sweatshops are frequently exposed to hazardous working conditions.

Sweatshops, like the ones used by Nikkei, are believed to create an environment for the workers that can become potentially dangerous in regards to their health and safety. In 1 997, Nikkei became the subject of a health and safety controversy when information became public that workers in one of Nine’s contracted factories were exposed to highly toxic fumes. In another Nikkei sweatshop, the workers were unlimited in front of others and were often subjected to debilitating mental and physical abuse including kicking slapping in the face and name calling.

A report published by Global Exchange demonstrated that in some Chinese factories contracted by Nikkei, workers were not allowed to talk during work, and if they did so, they were fined $1. 2 to $3. 6. Similarly, Indonesian factories punished worker mistakes by forcing employees to stand in the sun for prolonged periods of time. Eventually, the ethical debate faces a few important questions that arise while addressing the issue of sweatshop labor. Is the treatment and conditions provided for sweatshop workers morally justifiable?

And should multinational companies be responsible for the actions of their factories abroad? There are conflicting opinions in the ethical discussion surrounding sweatshops. First of all, critics of sweatshops argue that labor practices at factories abroad do not meet standards proposed by the International Labor Organization, and are against a number of their core principles. The treatment received by workers at sweatshop factories challenges the fundamental human rights proposed in the United Nations Declaration of

Human Rights, which States that everyone has a right to freedom, and shall not be held in servitude or be an object to any offensive forms of treatment. Critics use deontological ethical theories to justify that sweatshops are morally incorrect. Philosophy provided by Emmanuel Kant proposes a powerful perspective on human rights and dignity. Individuals in the Kantian categorical imperative are seen to “possess dignity and should be treated as rational beings” and are not means to an end. According to this 1 8th century philosopher, following customs and legal or institutional law is not enough to e considered moral.

Instead actions can only be referred to as moral and right if they are performed “out of sense of duty’ by an individual who has “good will. ” Anti-sweatshop activists call attention to the fact that treatments received by workers in overseas factories interfere with socially accepted values such as: dignity, justice, fairness, equality, respect and responsibility. They primarily argue that businesses using sweatshops labor have an egoistic approach to the problems faced in their factories, and act merely in their own interest-?ignoring the needs of their employees.

At the same time, these artists claim that egoistic behavior damages the psychological contract between workers and employers, which is based on perceived fairness, trust and specific promises made by both parties. The average person in the developed world frowns upon the harsh working conditions associated with sweatshops. About a decade ago, a movement to boycott sweatshops became prominent in mainstream culture, with protests demanding that large U. S. Corporations stop buying and selling goods that came from extraneous, dangerous, underage and under-paid labor.

When word got out that Cathie Lee Gifford clothing line for Wall-Mart was reduced by sweatshops, activists in the United States expressed their disgust loudly. In response, Wall-Mart cut all ties with the manufacturers, inevitably closing down the factories working on that clothing line. This incident appeared to be a victory for human rights. However, the Chinese workers at these factories, who had been given small compensation for their 60-80 hours of toil each week, were outraged.

Workers have consistently expressed concerns at the closing of even the most dismal sweatshops, and the constant and ready supply of sweatshop labor can be attributed to the act that developing countries and their people are in terrible need of these economic opportunities. Their need for work outweighs their aversion to exploitative working conditions. World leading economists, such as Paul Grumman of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, have stated that sweatshop manufacturing in developing countries is the first step towards economic prosperity.

Many acknowledge these labor-intensive industries for pushing states such as Hong Kong, South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan into the economically developed world. A study on poverty relief and development y the university of Santiago De Composites also suggests that such sustainable international investment in low-income countries is important to economic progress. The foreign investments by multinational corporations in developing Asian countries do not only help production facilities, but also add to the countries’ capital formation.

Within this transaction itself, technology, skills, innovation, organizational and managerial practices are passed on, and the countries are introduced to international marketing networks-?which are imperative to the development of these countries economies. Defenders of headships refer to utilitarianism, which states that the most reasonable and ethically justified decision is the decision that results in the best consequences for the greatest number of people, and which consequences are better than any other available options.

In conclusion, I would like to agree with the defenders of sweatshop labor. I believe that it is easier to sit in a chair behind a desk and criticize the issue of labor, rather than actually live in those conditions and evaluate the benefits. In respect to utilitarianism, the closing down Of sweatshops would have a very adverse effect on employees, who would lose their jobs. The end of sweatshops would force the workers to live in even worse conditions compared to what they currently live in, and would make it extremely difficult for these workers to support themselves and their family.

Closing sweatshops would also negatively impact the economy of developing countries after the loss of their foreign investment. In the long run, sweatshops are not purposed to harm these workers, but instead express utilitarian qualities and bring better overall consequences for all people involved. Employers profit from the access of cheap labor, contractors benefit from external investments, consumers enjoy low prices ND workers can earn wages, were there would have been none. Sweatshop working conditions aren’t morally justifiable but outsourcing to the sweatshops should not be outlawed completely.

Instead, conditions at these workplaces should be improved on by incentives the managers of these factories to do so. As a result, all stakeholders: employers, contractors, workers as well as consumers enjoy advantages, leaving sweatshop employees and employers to benefit from this product of globalization.

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The Ethical Debate on Sweatshop Labor. (2018, Feb 09). Retrieved from

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