In my last blog, I had discussed some pros and cons of the global division of labour. On one hand, it does benefit most of the people all over the world no matter from developed countries or developing countries. On the other hand, the exploitation of workers in sweatshops are really serious that we should do something to help them. Therefore, I named the global division of labour an inevitable evil to express my helpless and contradictory feeling.
So in this blog, I will try to list out some possible solutions to alleviate the problem of exploitation. My suggestions could be divided into three areas.
In terms of government, they can improve the labour law and protect workers rights as much as possible. Workers in sweatshops have revealed that they were exploited in many ways, for instance, paid half the legal overtime rate, people who refuse to work the extra hours were asked to leave. (Chamberlain, 2010) To cope with this problem, legislation of labour law along with strict enforcement are needed. For example, the government can set up the minimum wage, maximum working hour, minimum age of working, etc.. By enforcing such laws, even if the workers can choose whether or not to work for extra hours, they would get reasonable payment and can avoid child labour.
In terms of media and NGOs, they can unveil the working condition and treatment of workers in sweatshops. On one hand, it can arouse general public attention to the problem, on the other hand, cause a force of public opinion. Most of the Multinational Corporations (MNCs) do care about their image and do not want to be associated with negative issues, such as sweatshop. Gap admitted wage and overtime violations and ordered its supplier to reduce working hours to within the legal limits and to refund workers who have been illegally underpaid. (Chamberlain, 2010) It proved that public attention triggered by media is helpful.
In terms of consumers, we can exert pressure on MNCs to offer more reasonable and ethical treatment to workers in sweatshops by different methods. For instance, we can boycott the MNCs which exploited workers in sweatshops. Also, we can initiate or participate in protests, as to condemn the unethical action of MNCs. Apart from that, we can also be aware if the product carries any label about sweatshop. In Australia, clothing manufactured with a fair and ethical treatment of workers, such as legally stated wage rates and conditions will have an Ethical Clothing Australia (ECA) label (Oxfam Australia). Purchasing these products will help alleviate the problem as MNCs would also join the certification scheme if they found consumers are in favour of this kind of label as a selling point.
However, let’s come down to earth. Although there are many measures that can help tackle the sweatshop problem, there are still many difficulties.
From the economic liberal perspective, MNCs are a major source of capital, jobs, and technology. Government all over the globe are competing fiercely for foreign direct investment (Balaam, & Dillman). So we can easily understand that governments in developing countries actually have low motivation to improve their labour rights because they don’t want to lose their business. And on the other hand, it is found that even though the manufacturers have signed up to the certification schemes, many of them are just escaping from violation of the rule by other ways. (Chamberlain, 2013) For MNCs, the certification scheme is just a PR strategy. This is basically how the world running now.
So, does it mean that nothing can be CHANGED?
In my point of view, the certification scheme is actually an effective means to help tackle the problem. But the current problem is MNCs are escaping their responsibility from the loopholes of the inspection. So what I would suggest is that NGOs or other International Institutions could improve the certification scheme by ameliorating the inspection as to avoid unscrupulous MNCs use it as a PR strategy. Also, to give consumers a chance to support and help workers in developing countries.
In a nutshell, although the prevalence of global division of labour doesn’t seem like to decline in any time at the moment, there is something we can do to help with the exploitation of workers in sweatshops. Every one who is reading this blog, Please pay more attention to the SWEATSHOP ISSUE and support workers. According to Rostow, developing countries would develop after undergoing a series of changes in their socio- economic system(Balaam, & Dillman). I hope what he says would be true. Otherwise, if I were one of the workers in developing world, living a life without hope and exploitation, I afraid one day revolution might happen as Karl Marx once said.
Balaam, David N., and Bradford L. Dillman. (2011). Introduction to international political economy. Boston: Longman.
Gethin, Chamberlain (2010) ‘Gap, Next and M&S in new sweatshop scandal’ The Guardian [Online] Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2010/aug/08/gap-next-marks-spencer-sweatshops
Max, Nisen (2013) ’How Nike Solved Its Sweatshop Problem’ Business Insider’ [Online] Available at: http://www.businessinsider.com/how-nike-solved-its-sweatshop-problem-2013-5?IR=T
Oxfam Australia ‘Are your clothes made in sweatshops?’ [Online] Available at: https://www.oxfam.org.au/what-we-do/ethical-trading-and-business/workers-rights-2/are-your-clothes-made-in-sweatshops/
Gethin, Chamberlain (2013) ‘Admit it. You love cheap clothes. And you don’t care about child slave labour’ [Online] Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/jul/28/india-sweated-labour
By: Chandan RAI (M00601271)