We live in the rich West can buy some very cheap clothing because workers in developing countries endure unsafe and unfair working conditions with underpaid wage. So what are we going to do about it?
Almost three quarters of world clothing exports are made in developing countries. China makes about half the world's clothing, India about a sixth, with most of the rest made in either Asia or central America. When we buy cheap clothes and accessories made from these developing countries, are we supporting a developing economy or taking advantage of underpaid workers? The answer is both we did.
As many humanist considered that is our shopping encouraging children labour? Counter-intuitively, buying cheap clothes from the developing countries actually supporting they are economic and cutting child labour, rather than increasing it.
There is an interesting view from famous blog author Alex Singleton that throughout history everyone have had to work, no matter children or adults. Everyone wants to help their families have enough to eat, and the only thing that has already released them has been wealth. In early Britain, it wasn't very long ago that children were employed to clean chimneys to earn the pin money. Fortunately, as their parents became wealthier, more and more children were sent to school.
Buying clothes or accessories from the developing countries is one way to help their parents to become wealthy. For example, in 1961, HongKong’s resident earned a quarter more than people who living in the Britain; by the early 1990s, their salary exceeded US people. Campaigners complained about low wages and conditions in HongKong factories which producing the cheap plastic toys, but the toys were welcomed all over the world, HongKong became wealthy. This case told us if developing countries become better at producing one certain good, there are more and more companies will locate there, the only way companies compete for workers in particular geographical regions was rising their labour’ wage.
Some ethical consumers consider that shopped cheap clothes from the developing countries as a sign to allow the underpaid labour so that they may tempted to ditch cheap clothes entirely, and choose to buy only from developed countries where they confident that underpaid labour will never occur. But this might not have the desired effect, the only way to help the developing countries is developing their economic, even if there are underpaid labour, they still can earn money and they need money.
After they have money, they can use the money to do other things which will benefit to their countries. In opposite, putting people in poor countries out of work, and driving them back into lower-income family is the worst to their economic development.
Shopping the cheap clothes or accessories from the developing countries is obvious benefit to the input countries and their residents. But, it is also benefit to the output countries and their residents..
There is no doubt, poverty in the developing countries is a complex and difficult problem. No one could solve it in a short time, but offer jobs to help with the economic development will have a good long-term effect. Many people bought apparels which made in sweatshops. Instead of feel guilty for “exploiting” underpaid workers, we should rejoice, because our spending is some of the best aid we can give to people in developing countries. Authors Paul Krugman and Walter Williams have both written that when workers voluntarily take a job they demonstrate that they believe the job is the best alternative available to them – even when that job is unsafe and the pay is very low compared to wages in the North America.
Developing countries and their residents can benefit from these kind of trades by increasing their amount of or access to economic resources. Because the developing countries usually have limited economic resources such as land and borders. They need extra investment from abroad to help with develop their countries. Especially the small developing nations which often have the lowest amounts of natural resources in the economic marketplace. Oversea investment ensure small nations can obtain the economic resources needed to produce consumer goods or services. Also, the trade improves the quality of life for the input nation’s citizens. They can use less money to buy the same clothes or accessories. And use the saved money to improve the quality of their life’s. The more customers purchased, the more underpaid workers produce; the more money customers saved, the more money underpaid workers earned. It is what we called win-win process.
What expert said?
Benjamin Powell, an assistant professor of Economics at Suffolk University and a Senior Economist with the Beacon Hill Institute. Benjamin is a editor of Making Poor Nations Rich, and writing a book entitled No Sweat: How Sweatshops Improve Lives and Economic Growth. He said that have a underpaid job is always better than people have no job and pointed out that sweatshop jobs are often far better than the vast majority of jobs in the countries where they are located. Also, sweatshops can play a crucial role in economic development. Such as attract investment, bring technology, and the chance for workers to learn skills. Although, purchased cheap clothes and accessories from the poorer countries seems not ethical, but it is still a win-win process to help the poorer workers to develop their countries.