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Child workers, some as young as 10, have been found working in a textile factory in conditions close to slavery to produce clothes that appear destined for Gap Kids, one of the most successful arms of the high street giant.

Speaking to The Observer, the children described long hours of unwaged work, as well as threats and beatings.

Gap said it was unaware that clothing intended for the Christmas market had been improperly subcontracted to a sweatshop using child labour. It announced it had withdrawn the garments involved while it investigated breaches of the ethical code imposed by it three years ago.

Indian ‘slave’ children found making low-cost clothes destined for Gap | World | The Observer

Three things strike me about this story

First that big companies no longer get away with exploitive globalization. Reporters are checking their supply chains and the resulting publicity rebounds badly on their key selling point, the Brand. When you sell an image, things that damage that image require supervision.

Secondly that consumers are more interested in stories like this and aware of them. It’s on the front page of The Guardian, even when the leg work was done by The Observer. Consumers want to be ethical in their spending and won’t accept overtly exploitative behaviour. At the same time this story will disappear within a few weeks and those same consumers will forget. Once you establish a dominant image in peoples’ mind, it takes a lot to uproot the default assumptions.

Finally, that India’s economic miracle is coming at a similar price to China’s. I’ve shared esoterically my disquiet about the way these miracles happen and  the human price paid for progress. I freely confess that I have no idea how else it can be done, or how this choice can be made between progress and exploitation, or even if any balance is possible.

In the meantime though,

mind-the-gap

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4 Comments

    • TRM
    • Posted October 29, 2007 at 8:11 am
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    The simple fix to this is staring everyone in the face. Stop allowing manufacturers to send jobs overseas. The only reason they send them over to places like India and China is because it triples profits. I know it sounds radical buyt so what, make American comapnies manufacture on American soil! Our products should all say “made in USA”! Look at what the made in China label is getting us…

    • A Friend
    • Posted November 6, 2007 at 2:28 pm
    • Permalink

    Where are your jeans made? how much did they cost to make? more importantly, how much did you pay?

    • mtalib
    • Posted November 6, 2007 at 2:54 pm
    • Permalink

    It’s impossible to know. I don’t have the time or dedication to investigate this myself. That is why we rely on the media, who have the resources and skills to investigate these issues to bring them to our attention.

    In a broader sense, it is also the purpose of government regulation. There are a thousand things that we are unable and indeed unwilling to investigate ourselves but that does not mean that we individually or collectively waive their importance to us. Instead we apply collective minimum standards to try and protect our interests through law and moral regulation.

    Why is it important what they cost and how much I paid? Their value to me is different from their value to the store that is selling them. Their cost is lower than the benefit I perceive I will get from owning them. The seller believes to the contrary, the money will make him happier than owning the jeans for longer. This is the fundamental win win nature of capitalism. We both get something we want.

  1. very interesting. i’m adding in RSS Reader


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