Top 3 Ways Sweatshops Help The Poor Escape Poverty

Should sweatshops around the world be shut down? What might we say if we looked at sweatshops from the perspective of the world’s poor? While it may be true that sweatshops treat workers unfairly, Professor Matt Zwolinski says there are three points to be made in defense of sweatshops.

  • The exchange between the worker and the employer is mutually beneficial. Sweatshop jobs often pay three to seven times more than wages paid elsewhere in an economy. Workers in the developing world tend to view sweatshop labor as a very attractive option.
  • Even if sweatshop labor is unfair, it’s a bad idea to prohibit it. Taking away sweatshops just takes away an option for the poorest workers of the world. While countries can make it illegal for sweatshops to pay low wages, they cannot prevent sweatshops from shutting down and paying no wages. And when that happens, the workers all lose their jobs.
  • It is better to do something to end the problem of global poverty than it is to do nothing. Sweatshops are doing something to help. They are providing jobs that pay better than other alternatives, and they are contributing to a process of economic development that has the potential to offer dramatic living increases.

If we look at sweatshops from the perspective of the world’s poor, which looks better: the American company that outsources to a sweatshop and provides jobs in developing countries, or the American company that, because of its high-minded moral principles, hires only U.S. workers?

Matt Wavle More than 1 year ago
If ones goal really is to help those in poverty around the world, wouldn't the best option be to create competing "sweat shops"?  Of course, there'd still be push back from those who'd want to shut it down even IF you doubled what other local shops were paying, unless it rose to OUR minimum wage.  But If the cost of labor in competing goods were more than doubled, I seriously doubt that people shopping in Walmart would pay for the similar, yet higher priced goods.    If the market price for labor = X, then why is it any 3rd party's business to interfere?
Rehab Shaban More than 1 year ago
So, its better to settle for low wages and unhealthy conditions because there is no alternative? There has to be something wrong with that reasoning. 
aircoryell1980 More than 1 year ago
So, what is your answer?  How will you help the "low wage and unhealthy conditions?"  I would like to hear your "reasoning" Did you listen to the video at the end? Would you rather have them closed down? Then what are the options? I can tell you this: not higher wages and better conditions.  Also, I think that if you look at the history of the America, we suffered through low wages and unhealthy conditions in our history and have risen above it-- though not perfectly. No one shut us down due to "low wages and unhealthy conditions". We struggled on and are doing quite well in comparison to many. Possibly this is the timeline for other countries 200 years later. But, if we are arrogant enough to think we know what is best and close down these sweatshops, what do you recommend we do instead?
Matt Wavle More than 1 year ago
After 142 days of silence, I think it's fair to assume that Silence is the best "answer" they can offer.  Even when doing nothing is a much better option, many people feel better about doing something about it, because, at least, they tried.  The fact that cognitive dissonance is actually painful and that in our comfortable society, we feel great about simply treating or masking the pain instead of ever treating the root cause of the pain means that most likely the truth seen in this video was likely forgotten about 10 seconds after the comment was posted.  You can see a closed minded arrogance and outright rejection of an uncomfortable truth with, "There has to be something wrong with that reasoning."
Matt Wavle More than 1 year ago
Q - "So, it's better to settle for low wages and unhealthy conditions because there is no alternative?"  [it's not its]
-- Permit me to rephrase to answer your question.  Perhaps you're really asking this question:
Q - "Understanding that the workers are currently exercising the best available option that they currently have, an option that I feel is well below any I would be willing to accept for myself, would it be immoral of me to interfere in a way that makes things worse for them, as long as I'm doing it with good intentions?"
A - Yes, to both.  
Note:  If you could answer "No" to either, then there has to be something wrong with that reasoning.  To judge an action only on its intended outcome and never on its actual outcome is to be out of touch with reality.  Those who are consistently out of touch with reality are, quite literally, insane.