HAVE you ever wondered where your clothes come from? You’d say the shops, of course.
But the real questions is: Where do these items really come from? Where were they made? Most importantly, who made them?
It’s these questions we probably don’t ask ourselves when we pick up our bargain £3 T-shirt.
But maybe we should. Only a small amount of research shows that the answers behind questions are not pleasant – and that’s not just the case with cheap stores, but some of the bigger, ‘high-quality’ names in the clothing industry.
Behind the labels and the advertisement lie the truth that workers in the Third World are being forced to work up to 18 hours a day to make the garments we wear here in the UK.
They are paid a miniscule wage compared to the amounts that these items are being sold for. Countries such as El Salvador and India are prime examples of where many workers are being underpaid and heavily overworked to simply survive.
Across the world, 218 million children aged five to 17 are involved in child labour – and 73 million working children are less than 10 years old.
The majority of these labourers live in shanty towns in poor conditions. They have no choice but to accept it. Without the job that they have, they cannot even provide for themselves.
You may ask why can’t these rich and successful global companies pay their Third World workers a higher wage? Well, they can but they simple refuse to do this, because it eats into their profit margins.
Child labour is also a massive dilemma in these countries. Children are sold off to sweat factories by their parents and fend for themselves for barely a penny. It isn’t necessary to explain how dangerous children as young as 11 working in factories can be. Every year, 22,000 children die in work-related accidents.
Health risks in the factories affect adults too – a cramped working environment is dangerous for anyone. Codes of Conduct for workers are pinned up in factories for these companies, but they are evidently not enforced.
We wouldn’t work in those conditions in this country – so as consumers, should we condone it happening elsewhere, just to provide us with cheap clothes?
It’s a tough choice – especially when many of us don’t have much cash to spare ourselves.
If we carry on buying, these unfair working conditions will continue to take place around the globe. Children will be made to work these brutal hours and struggle to survive.
But if we don’t buy these garments, thousands upon thousands of people would be forced into even further poverty, unable to find a job.
So, what can we – the customers – do to help these people work in a safe environment for relatively acceptable hours for an improved wage?
It may seem that we can do very little about it. But the power of consumer pressure should never be under-estimated. Clothing companies need our business and if enough customers follow their conscience, eventually changes will have to be made.