Some Thoughts on Sweatshops

After all of the posts I’ve made about Sweatshops, maybe it’s time I threw in my own two cents.

I won’t deny that sweatshops create jobs. They do. hundreds of thousands of them in Cambodia, in fact. The textile industry makes up a huge percentage of Cambodia’s yearly exports. And every month, young women send money home to their families because of the (meagre) wages they get from cutting, sewing and packing away clothes for Western shoppers.   The money they send home means rice and other necessities for their families who are largely subsistence farmers. 

So they create jobs, but is that really the issue? I think the issue that is never really addressed is the demand that keep sweatshops open.  

“But when jobs aren’t a pathway out of poverty, they create an asymmetric, unsustainable global economy of producer countries and consumer countries that can stand on its head only so long.”  (Adam Neiman in his Letter to the Editor) 

That’s the issue right there.  Sweatshops are a product of global capitalist system that continues to entrench the world’s poor in deeper and deeper poverty and continues to line the pockets of the rich.  And as a follower of Jesus, I am called outside of empire, and into allegiance to God Almighty alone.  Dare I buy a shirt for $20 when a woman made that shirt for $1 a day?  These are deep questions.  And they are hard, cause it might require me to change my lifestyle. 

“Woe to him who builds his realm by unjust gain 
to set his nest on high, 
to escape the clutches of ruin!      

(Habakkuk 2:9)

Christian women around the world get paid peanuts so that Christian women in the West can have all the clothes they want?  There is something wrong with this picture.  And that’s why I can’t believe that people actually dream about sweatshops.  They may be a short term fix for a family entrenched in poverty, but they continue what can only be seen as a new feudalism.  Unfortunately, as a member of the world’s richest consumers, I have to take a deep look at my spending habits and see whether I am contributing the widening gap between rich and poor.


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