related topics
{company, market, business}
{rate, high, increase}
{black, white, people}
{law, state, case}
{country, population, people}
{theory, work, human}
{work, book, publish}
{woman, child, man}
{day, year, event}
{island, water, area}
{film, series, show}
{school, student, university}

Sweatshop (sweat factory) is a working environment considered to be unacceptably difficult or dangerous — especially by developed countries with high standards of living. However sweatshops may exist in any country. Sweatshop workers often work long hours for unusually low pay, regardless of laws mandating overtime pay or a minimum wage. Child labour laws may be violated. Sweatshops may have hazardous materials and situations. Employees may be subject to employer abuse without an easy way to protect themselves. Since wages are unusually low, and working conditions poor, the incentive for owners to invest in modern, possibly economically nonviable technology is less. Defenders of sweatshops, such as Paul Krugman[1], Nicholas Kristof[2][3], and Johan Norberg[4] focus on the short term advantage to individuals, and the long term advantage to developing countries.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office defines a sweatshop as an employer that violates more than one federal or state labor law governing minimum wage and overtime, child labor, industrial homework, occupational safety and health, worker’s compensation or industry regulation. Sweatshops exist both internationally and domestically and the U.S. Department of Labor estimates that over 50% of sewing shops in the US are sweatshops as defined by the above definition.[citation needed]



While many workplaces through history have been crowded, dangerous, low-paying, and without job security, the concept of a sweatshop has its origins between 1830 and 1850 as a specific type of workshop in which a certain type of middleman, the sweater, directed others in garment making (the process of producing clothing), under arduous conditions.The terms sweater for the middleman and sweating system for the process of subcontracting piecework were used in early critiques like Charles Kingsley's Cheap Clothes and Nasty, written in 1850, which described conditions in London, England. The workplaces created for the sweating system were called sweatshops, and variously comprised workplaces of only a few workers, or as many as 100 or more.

In the sweatshop of 1850, the role of the sweater as middleman and subcontractor (or sub-subcontractor) was considered key, because he served to keep workers isolated in small workshops. This isolation made workers unsure of their supply of work, and unable to organize against their true employer through collective bargaining. Instead, tailors or other clothing retailers would subcontract tasks to the sweater, who in turn might subcontract to another sweater, who would ultimately engage workers at a piece rate for each article of clothing or seam produced. Kingsley asserted that the middleman made his profit by finding the most desperate workers, including immigrants from Ireland, women and children, who could be paid an absolute minimum. While workers who produced many pieces could earn more, less productive workers earned so little that critics termed their pay starvation wages. Employment was risky: injured or sick workers would be quickly replaced by others.

Full article ▸

related documents
Stock market index
Economy of France
Comparative advantage
Perfect competition
Economy of Australia
Fiscal policy
Alaska Permanent Fund
New Keynesian economics
Two-part tariff
Tax Reform Act of 1986
IS/LM model
Economic bubble
Gresham's law
Sunk costs
Five-Year Plans for the National Economy of the Soviet Union
Division of labour
Local Exchange Trading Systems
Transaction cost
Blood diamond
Canadian dollar
Lotus Software
W H Smith
Corel Corporation