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Moral legitimacy of exploiting workers in developing countries Introduction Under the term ‘exploitation’ the unfair treatment of workers is meant, who cannot exercise their labour rights/human rights and are exploited for their efforts in order to benefit from them. Since markets in the 21st century became highly volatile, the demand for cheap and easily accessible products increased in first world countries. Free trade would facilitate the advancement of the developing countries and supply the world with cheap and easily accessible products. But what makes prices cheap for consumers is cheap labour. The owners of fast-fashion brand factories realized that by moving their factories to the industrializing world, where employees are not paid well they could save on the expenses of production and manufacture goods at a low price with high profit. Countries with low corporate taxes and no tariffs meant borderless products which could be easily transported back to developed countries. Since in third world countries there are no (or, if any, very few) laws that protect worker’s rights it is easy for companies to abuse workers and have them work for about 75 hours a week. Cambodian workers reported they had to do two hours of overtime daily, while Indian workers reported working at least 9 hours to 17 hours a day (Bhalla, 2016). The only thing buyers care about is cheap prices and to have the desired products delivered to their closest stores. But the price of cheap products, is the terrible exploitation of workers in low-income countries who work in sweatshops for wages that are not even enough to satisfy their daily needs. According to Bangladesh’s prime minister, the minimum wage for garment industry workers is 32 cents per hour (Abrams & Sattar, 2017). If the low wages are not enough, poor working conditions also contribute to the unfair treatment of workers in underdeveloped countries. In 2017 Turkish employees working for big inditex brand Zara, hid notes in the clothes made by them calling for help. After the company which they were working for, Bravo Tekstil, went bankrupt the workers were left unpaid and launched the campaign in order to ask Zara to compensate them for their losses. On the tags written by workers the following hashtag could be seen: ‘Justice for Bravo workers’ (Girit 2017). However, it is not proven that the tags were originally written by Bravo Tekstil workers, the incident perfectly implies how workers are exploited at inditex brand factories. This essay questions to what extent it is morally acceptable to exploit workers in the garment industry in third world countries such as Indonesia, China, India? This essay is going to discuss the morality of exploiting garment workers in third world countries by fast-fashion companies and it is going be conducted through a literature review. The literature consists of academic articals on sweatshop labour and the conditions workers in industrializing countries endure. In the first section I am going to describe the factors that have an effect on employee’s working conditions and discuss why are customers contented with the fact that some of the products they buy are made under low conditions. In the second part, Schumann’s framework will be combined with the utilitarian theory to describe what is moral. In the third section, the advantages and disadvantages of the usage of exploited employees will be discussed. Discussion First I am going to give some background information about the factors influencing working conditions and then discuss why costumers are confident with buying products coming from sweatshops. The definition of working conditions was formed by several authors. According to the World Health Report by WHO, working conditions is the combination of three factors which are compensation, non-financial incentives and workplace safety. Conditions regarding the workplace has some serious effects on an employee’s natural well-being and daily life. Activities like eating, sleeping, bringing up children are all concerned with the factors that people encounter with in their workplace. Mental and physical health are affected by the conditions and environment in which workers are present. Conditions regarding the workplace has some serious effects on an employee’s natural well-being and daily life. Activities like eating, sleeping, bringing up children are all concerned with the factors that people encounter with in their workplace. Factors that have an impact on working conditions can be social or economic. Social factors play a crucial role in working conditions as well as in the mental health of workers. An example of a social factor can be the treatment of employees. In different cultures workers are treated in a different manner. There is a significant difference among the behaviour towards employees in rich and poor countries. In underdeveloped countries, workers are treated unfair and abuse is common at workplaces. Punitive measures, banned unions, unsafe working conditions and unpaid working hours are among the issues factors have to face at garment factories. According to SACOM’s findings, workers at two Chinese textile industry factory (Pacific Textiles and Luenthai Textiles) working for big Japanese fast-fashion brand, UNIQLO endured harsh working conditions like poor ventilation with extreme high shop temperature and cotton dust and 58 types of punishment including fines, for workers who did not manage to fulfil the production target (Saranel and Narayanasamy 2016). Low working conditions can be attributed to many problems like negligence of the garment factories and the high pressure that is put on them by inditex companies. According to Richard Locke, professor of management at MIT, inditex brands put pressure on manufacturers “to maintain or improve standards while producing the same goods at the same rate if not faster, same quality, price — when in fact, their input costs, their transportation costs are going up.” (Ryssdal, 2013) In rich countries, employees have more freedom to choose their own workplace and they have more rights, than workers from underdeveloped nations. Their rights are protected by laws and trade unions, while in third world countries trade unions are suppressed. Diverging economic development can underpin the factor why are workers better-off in developed economies. However, customers are turning a blind eye on the fact that the products they buy are made under disturbing conditions. One possible reason could be that customers only care about the price of the products, and probably would not pay more for a product if it was made under better conditions. Simply put together, sustainability is not a primary value buyers choose. On the other hand, sweatshops provide work for people in underdeveloped countries. Even though wages are low, sweatshop workers can still be made better-off with earning minimum wages than without earning nothing. Take Nhem Yen, the 40-year old Cambodian woman who works in a sweatshop as an example. She lives in a life-threatening area where malaria is fatal. Without a sufficient mosquito net, she had to choose which of her children would sleep exposed and which would not. In Cambodia a large mosquito net costs around 5 dollars, so if that area would have had at least one sweatshop, Nhem Yen would have gotten the chance to work in it, to earn the money to buy a net big enough to cover her children and save them from the fatal disease (Kristof ). According to Nicholas D. Kristof, the problem is not that there are too many workers exploited, rather it is that there are not enough. Poor countries would be definetly better off having factories using cheap labour which would lift out the inhabitants from the severe conditions in the slums and towns (Kristof, The New York Times, 14 January 2004). Secondly, multinational firms provide higher wages and better working conditions than the local firms in the sweatshop belt. The data examined by Powell (2006) shows that garment industry workers are far in a more advantageous position than the rest of the pople in their economies. Graham (2000) argued that improvement of technology, brought about by multinational firms, must increase wages as labour productivity rises and workers will be paid more due to the advancement of technology. Moreover, Feenstra and Hanson (1997) accused that foreign firms raise living standards by increasing the demand for labour. This gives evidence about why sweatshops could be beneficial for workers in the long term and and might be the reason why consumers are comfortable with buying products coming from low quality manufactories. This essay is going to test the hypothesis: sweatshops will have a positive impact on the living standards of third world country workers, and will contribute to the advancement of the economy. Theoretical framework Despite the fact that sweatshops may be economically beneficial, there is a heated debate, whether they are morally legitimate or not. Some claim that while sweatshops offer low wages and poor working conditions, it is still better than no jobs at all. Preiss (2014) stated some ideas why other economists think sweatshops could have a positive side: sweatshops represent a natural stage in economic development, sweatshops may be the best possible choice for workers in underdeveloped countries and regulating them by government measures, may cause more harm than good. The anti-sweatshop activists who claim that factories should increase the wages of workers to a higher level, are not aware of the real consequences. If sweatshops paid their workers higher than the market rate level, it would push the market equilibrium out imposing heavy costs to the workers (Kissiah 2014). Powell and Zwolinski (2011) pointed out that government regulations, as a matter of fact, hinder economic growth which is unfavourable, as economic growth is the most successful way of raising the poor out of poverty. Each people have different opinions on what is morally acceptable and what is not. But how is it determined what is moral and what is not? Defining what is a morally reasonable behaviour may depend on where in the world you live (Poushter, 2014). In each culture there are a set of commitments which considered to be moral but in other cultures they are not accepted as ethical (same sex marriages, abortions). Velasquez, Andre, Shanks, S.J and Meyer (1992) showed that the differences between nations and habits may indicate that morality is subject to the taste of each culture and concerns whether there is a universal principle of morality or not. This approach of theory is also reflected by ethical relativism. In the subsequent paragraph the moral principles framework of Paul L. Schumann is going to be discussed in correspondence with the utilitarian theory to examine the morality of exploitation of third world country workers. According to Schumann, the theory of ethical relativism should be refused, and instead of, it is necessary to create a universal principle of morality. He sketches five complementary moral principles: utilitarian ethics, rights ethics, distributive justice ethics care ethics and virtue ethics (Schumann 2001). Utilitarianism grasps the idea that the action, that produces the greatest wellbeing for the largest number of people is the morally right one (Marques 2015). Utilitarian ethics is a form of belief that claims that the greatest amount of well-being is an end that should extensively guide all actions of both individuals and governments (Little 2002). It also promotes that the sum of individual utilities should be maximized (Gandjour 2007). Utilitarianism is hard to translate to the content of garment industry workers, as having all of these workers happy is an impossible outcome which would pose a pressure not only on the economy, but also on the workers (Preiss 2014). The approach of Kant, which advocates that every human being is and end alone, and ought not to be used as a pure means by others, and that morality is a freedom, is a widely used framework in studies related to humans and captive employees. So as long as third-world country workers consider themselves to be free, and realize what rights they possess they are not exploited. Despite the harsh working conditions, in most of the cases people choose to work in these factories (Powell 2016). They choose to work there on their own willingness without any coercion and that choice alone displays that these factories are not exploitative nor sweatshops (Miller 2003). As a result, workers are given the necessary freedom to maximize their utilities by choosing to work in garment industry factories. Secondly, employment being a mutually beneficial and voluntary relationship allows us to say that sweatshop labour, is not only not exploitative but it is a morally honourable way to help the economic advancement of poor areas and to provide employment for the people living in these areas (Snyder 2010). So the answer to my central question ‘To what extent it is morally acceptable to exploit workers in the garment industry in third world countries such as Indonesia, China, India?’ is that workers choose to work in garment industry factories because no other prefential option is available to them. As longs as workers commit something on their own will they are not exploited. Conclusion As a conclusion, it should be taken into account that these workers are helped by sweatshops to earn money in order to improve their living conditions. There are no other better alternatives available for them that is why we should not fight against sweatshops because it would decrease the demand for cheap labour. However, it is not a reason to treat them poorly, and although organizations worldwide are fighting for the improvement of their working conditions it will not be a slow process. That might be the case that these workplaces are the only option workers have, but it does not mean that those who employ them are morally ethical. There are maybe limitations concerning the central question as for each group/culture morality means different actions and therefore, it is hard to define what is morally virtous and what is not. This essay focused on the morality of employing cheap labour in developing countries and used literature concerned with exploited workers, garment industries and the advantages of sweatshops. I argued that even though sweatshop workers are treated inferior according to the general belief, it does not mean that they are not benefiting from sweatshops.