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Sweatshops: Definition, History, Value

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Originated between 1830-1850The sweater directed others in the production of clothing under arduous conditions. Sweatshops attracted the rural poor to big cities such as London or New York and gave them a job. They were overcrowded, poorly ventilated and were prone to rat infestations. In the 1890s, a group called the National Anti-Sweating League was founded in Melbourne and they campaigned successfully for a minimum wage law. Criticism of these sweatshops is what led to all of the labor laws, minimum wage laws workplace safety regulations that we have today.

A very famous incident that caused sweatshops terrible working conditions to be exposed is the Triangle waist company fire in 1911. 146 people died because they had been locked in to the rooms and could not exit the building safely. Many people ended up jumping out of the windows and dying or inhaling the smoke that had built up because of poor ventilation. You may think that these sweatshops are things of the past, but there are still many of these terrible labor factories in developing countries all around the world. In fact, there are 18 countries worldwide that are known to have these sweatshops, including Thailand, China, India, Vietnam, Mexico and, VERY surprisingly, the U.S.!

Have you ever heard of H&M, Nike, Adidas and Uniqlo? Well, these four companies are all well known for using sweatshops to make their clothing. In 2015, a big protest was held in Hong Kong against Uniqlo, and many protests have been held against Adidas in Germany.

The abolition movement in the 1800s was the first major critics of sweatshops, because they saw similarities between sweatshops and slavery. As slavery was abolished in the late mid 1800s, abolitionists wanted to make the anti slavery laws include other forms of hard labor, including sweatshop work. England was the first country to pass an anti-sweatshop law.

Contributing Factors To Create Sweatshops

  • Globalization.

Lots of people in richer countries do not want to do difficult and strenuous work that is required to make lots of clothing, so the companies move to developing countries where people are eager for jobs and do not require such high wages. Developing countries also have less strict safety requirements, and the companies can get away with hard labor.

  • Fast Fashion.

Fast fashion retailers have to keep up with the rapid changing fashion trends to satisfy customers’ demands, meaning that they have to react and commence production very quickly. Sweatshops and cheap labor can produce lots of product in a short amount of time at a low cost, meaning that they are ideal for the fast fashion companies. This results in workers having to work for very long hours without reasonable payment.

  • Government corruption.

Government corruptions and inadequate labor protection legislation in developing countries have also contributed to the suffering of their employees. Weak law enforcement has attracted capitalists to invest in these developing countries, which is also a serious problem that leads to arisen of sweatshops. Without reasonable law restrictions, capitalists are able to set up fashion manufacturing plants at a lower cost. Governments in the developing countries often fail to enforce safety standards in local factories because of corruptions and weak law enforcement. These weaknesses allow factories to provide dangerous working conditions for their workers.

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Sweatshops: definition, history, value. (2018, October 26). GradesFixer. Retrieved September 29, 2022, from
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