12 May 2017

Sweatshops aren't too bad?

This question is regarding the discussion of arguments for and against sweatshops. Sweatshops are defined by International Labor Rights Forum, as an organization that violates two or more labor laws (2013).These laws could be those concerning wages, working hours, working conditions, safety and disciplinary methods implemented. Workers in sweatshop are claimed to be beaten, tortured, and even sexually harassed in occasion. However, many argue in defense of sweatshops that even though they violate these laws, they bring more benefit than harm over long term. While others are resolute that’ sweatshops should be abolished due to their deplorable conditions.
First and foremost, the predominant argument against sweatshop is that sweatshops exploit workers by paying them unconscionable wages. Especially, the wages paid by Multinational corporations(MNEs) operating in Third world countries are relatively low compared to wages paid for similar job in their home countries.For instance, ILRF website (2013) indicates 3.5 million workers in Bangladeshemployed in garment factories exporting to Europe and North America earn about US$10 a week. It is argued that sweatshops workers are trapped in an awful cycle of poverty due to exploitation and could barely afford daily expenses such as shelter, healthcare and their nutritional need.
In accordance with Immanuel Kant’s ethics, opponents of sweatshop dispute the arguments justifying unconscionable wages by asserting that sweatshop sweatshops overlook human dignity and human rights (Kant1971, p273). Immanuel Kant states that human beings should never be treated as means to an end, in fact they must be treated as ends itself (Kant 1971,p273).Kant’s Reformulation of Second Categorical Imperative emphasizes on humans beings as the most important aspect and stresses that MNEs should not make use of inexpensive labor available in developing nations.
However, this is justified by organizations, using the argument that corporations are attempting to minimize the cost of production as low as possible, by using cheap labor available due to the abundance of supply and exchange rate variant factors. Moreover, by setting up sweatshops, companies has distinct advantages such as specialization, rapid expansion capacity, reduction in production cost, increase in product cycle time and manufacturing flexibilities (Arnold & Bowie 2003, p223). This is supported by the Shareholders Theory that enunciates that the key characteristics of sustainability of any organization are through profit maximization, consequently maximizing shareholder wealth. As a firm is set up by those who have monetary share in it, the firm’s only resolution should be to serve the need and interest of these owners as the shareholders are reliant on their investment to procure return. As such, a firm has an obligation to ensure production at the least cost by any means available for maximum return.
In addition, Matt Zwolenski argued in Learn Liberty Website (2012) that sweatshops help the poor to escape poverty. The workers in developing nations find sweatshop the best income option available. This is due to the fact that sweatshops in countries such as Bangladesh and African nations tend to pay three to seven times higher than any other employments available in their economy. Zwolenski claims that’ sweatshops are a form of mutually advantageous exploitation between the workers and the employees. The wages enable the workers to sustain a better living condition than what would have been provided by other local industries. He also defend sweatshop on the grounds that relatively poorly paid jobs are better than no jobs at all.

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