Globalization is basically about attempting to make things global and expanding products and companies over seas to countries all around the world. It can also be classified as the process of creating languages, services, and products that apply not just to an individual neighborhood or city or country, but to the whole world. Canadians have experienced many benefits that globalization has brought to their lives including the availability to products and services from all around the world. However, at the same time on the other side of the world it has had many pessimistic or negative effects on workers in developing countries. As Globalization began to boom, the number of sweatshops also increased greatly and its effects were most definitely harming in many ways to the individuals employed by them; mainly women and children. Out of all the industries that have become globalized, the textile and garment industries are amongst the most.
Mutually the textile and garment industries make up one of the largest sources of industrial employment in the world. In virtually every country around the world clothing is being produced but being sold somewhere else. Around 30 million people are making clothes and textiles around the globe and out of those thirty million, most of them are women. Around the world women and children are suffering because of the introduction of sweatshops, low wages, unsafe working environments, free trade zones, foreign control, sub contracting and abuses of human and worker rights. Historically, the word ‘sweatshop’ originated in the Industrial Revolution to describe a subcontracting system in which the middlemen earned profits from the margin between the amount they received for a contract and the amount they paid to the workers. Today a sweatshop is defined by the government as any business or factory that violates one or more of the federal or provincial labor laws which are as follows: minimum wage and overtime, child labor, industrial homework, occupational health and safety, workers compensation, or industry registration.
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Originally when the garment industry went global it was all about the positive effects it was having on the developing countries in which the factories were located and about all the jobs that were introduced to those who once could not ever imagine getting paid to work. As Globalization began to show more of its negative effects on those lives of the individuals in developing countries, it became more evident that because of this globalization people on every continent and territory were exposed to and forced to consume a North American culture. As it has been already seen there is more than one interpretation of the phenomena: Globalization. While one of these understandings has to deal with equal exchange and sharing of goods and services between countries and cultures, the actuality of it is that it is a phenomenon that both crosses and expunges geographical and political borders attempting to make all countries look the same.
It forces people in other countries to accept and adapt to the North American Culture and even promote it to the rest of the world. For example, Filipino farmers are forced to go out into the cities and work in factories controlled by North American companies and produce products such as Nike shoes or Video Cameras. These products are not accessible to these underprivileged people that work in unhealthy and hazardous conditions because the prices for them are unaffordable in comparison to the wages they get paid. Rainforest in Brazil are destroyed and people are forced to work in conditions that violate almost every labor law the North American Government has produced all the while they are also not producing for the benefit of the individuals in their own country. These conditions only lead to more of a gap between the rich and the poor; as the poor get taken advantage of and exploited, the rich sit back and benefit with all the profits they are bringing into their countries. The Garment Industry has never been an easy place to work or even a place to want to work.
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Workers are not paid hourly or even fairly at the most part. Their pay depends on how fast they are able to produce a product and the quantities of that product they deliver in a day. The engineers make the decisions on how long it should take to produce the product being worked on and if the workers are able to deliver in that time period than they are paid the wage that is agreed on but if they work slower than expected than their wage is reduced. If a mistake is made, the worker is responsible for correcting the mistake on their own time. Regardless of the low pay that the workers are receiving, the work is often very hard and strenuous on the body. Workers often hesitate to take breaks or stretch their backs and legs because of the pressure to perform; work that are done in these garment factories are often repetitive and can often create serious health hazards such as repetitive strain injury, carpal tunnel syndrome, and chronic neck and back problems.
Many North Americans did not know the seriousness of sweatshops until 1995 when two major sweatshop scandals shocked the nation and brought to attention the negative effects sweatshops had on the world. The first scandal took place in the suburbs on Los Angeles. Labor officials uncovered a major sweatshop employing 80 Thai immigrants. The immigrants worked in a compound surrounded by razor wire and heavily protected by armed guards.
Labor officials found that the Thai immigrants made fewer than two dollars an hour making clothes that were later sold to high end stores like Mervyn’s. From this alone, one can see that these are not working conditions fit for anyone. Sweatshops lower standards on one’s value as a worker and a human being. The second scandal that helped North Americans comprehend the seriousness of sweatshops occurred in Honduras.
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Young women (mostly teenagers) were discovered by labor officials sewing Kathie Lee Gifford’s clothing line that was sold at Wal-Mart. It was found that the young women used to work thirteen to fourteen hour shifts that used to start as early as 7: 30 am. Due to the long hours the young women were forced to work, they were not authorized to attend night school. Young women had to choose between earning money or gaining an education; the former usually won because of impoverished area these women were forced to live in. After uncovering the two major sweatshop scandals in 1995, labor officials have since charged other big name companies for their part in creating sweatshops.
These companies include Nike, Gap, and other high-end clothing/ garment companies. In California, garment workers are also paid significantly lower than the state minimum wage of $5. 75 per hour. In 2000 alone, the Census reported that garment workers in California made an average of $5. 18 per hour. This average wage was close to the Federal minimum wage of the United States which was $5.
15 per hour. However, there are many underground garment factories that have not been accounted for and have not been discovered by labor officials. As long as the underground garment factories have not been discovered, they are free to exploit workers as unfortunate as it sounds. Also, the Census that takes place tends to under count immigrants. If all these factors came to play in determining the average wage of a garment worker, one can safely assume that the average wage would be significantly lower than $5. 18 per hour.
With the low wages the workers are paid for making certain garments, the clothing are later sold for extremely high prices, usually ten times more than one’s hourly pay. The extremely low wages that are paid to garment workers border close to the wages of slave laborers. In Hong Kong, the minimum wages are set by provincial governments. For China, the minimum hourly wage is eighty seven cents and in Shanghai the minimum wage is twenty one cents per hour. Most sweatshops employ women and children. In Canada, the employment of children under a certain age is strictly prohibited; however, the International Ladies Garment Workers Unions has reported the employment of children.
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These children are often utilized by either working in their own homes or the homes of other women garment workers. In many countries (especially developing countries) children are employed in factories and are forced to endure the same harsh working environment as all other adults. In 1971, it was estimated that in Hong Kong more than twenty-five thousand children worked full time in garment factories. The harsh realities of sweatshops do not only affect children, but also the women. Approximately 90% of sweatshop workers in the garment industry are women. Women, like children are paid extremely low however the wage decreases if certain clothing is not finished in time.
A woman is paid according to the number of garments that she produces. In 1990, the average wage of a woman garment worker in El Salvador was thirty three cents an hour. The previous year, the average hourly wage was fifty-seven cents an hour. From this alone, one can see the unfair working conditions sweatshop workers are forced to endure. The workers in a sweatshop are often subjected to long work hours, extreme exploitation, and poor working conditions, verbal or physical abuse. Workers in a sweatshop also work under a constant fear of being punished for speaking out or attempting to form a union.
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