Sweatshops: Definition, History, Value

The past

It was made between 1830-1850. The sweatshops attracted rural poor people to large cities like London and New York, where they were offered a job. They were cramped, unventilated and prone to rat infestations. Melbourne’s National Anti-Sweating League was established in 1890s. They successfully campaigned for a minimum-wage law. This critique of sweatshops is what lead to all of today’s labor laws, minimum-wage laws, and workplace safety regulations.

The Triangle waist fire of 1911 is one famous example of sweatshops being exposed. The fact that they were kept in rooms meant that they couldn’t escape the building safe enough to cause the deaths of 146 people. Poor ventilation caused many people to jump out of their windows, inhale the smoke and die. These sweatshops may seem like a distant memory, but they are still common in many developing countries. There are actually 18 countries around the world that have sweatshops. These include Thailand, China and India, Vietnam and Mexico. The sweatshops used to make these clothing are well-known by the four companies. Uniqlo was the focus of protests in Hong Kong and Germany in 2015.

The 1800s saw similarities between slavery and sweatshops. This was why the abolitionist movement was the first to attack them. The late 1800s saw the end of slavery, so abolitionists wanted other forms and hard labor to be included in anti slavery laws. England was the country that passed an anti-sweatshop bill.

Factors That Help Sweatshops Be Created


People in wealthy countries are not inclined to do the strenuous and difficult work of making clothing. So companies make their way to developing countries to find workers and lower wages. Companies can also work in developing countries without any restrictions on safety.

Quickly-produced clothing that is designed to mimic current trends.

Fashion retailers in fast fashion have to adapt quickly to meet customer demands. Low-cost labor and sweatshops are perfect for fast fashion companies as they can produce large quantities of product in short time. Workers are forced to work long hours for no pay.

Corruption in government

Their employees are also suffering from corruption by the government and poor labor protection laws in developing countries. Capitalists have been attracted to these countries by weak law enforcement, which can also lead to the rise of sweatshops. Capitalists can set up manufacturing plants for fashion at lower costs if there are no reasonable laws in place. The weak enforcement of law and corruption in developing countries means that many governments fail to enforce safety regulations in their local factories. These weaknesses enable factories provide unsafe working conditions to their workers.



Cody Young is an educational blogger. Cody is currently a student at the University of Utah pursuing a degree in communications. Cody has a passion for writing and sharing knowledge with others.

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