The Slaves of Freedom ?

by Shabana S. on June 16, 2013 - 9:52am

This article got my attention, because it was about an event that had occured outside of Canada and I am usually interested knowing about what is happening elsewhere. Sweatshops are widely practiced in less developped countries, however this article relates to the poor working cinditions in Bangladesh. Where people work for low wages, long hours, and unhealthy working conditions. There are two movements; the Anti-Sweatshop refers to the movement that focuses to improve the abusive nature of sweatshop. It started in the 19th century in some industrialized countries and the Pro-sweatshop arguments, that focuses on favoring sweatshops and usually brings up the positive aspects of sweatshop.

Are the working conditions that the workers are exposed to ethical?

It is immoral to abuse of others when on power, not that it is good when you are not on power, but it is even worst when the victim is vulnerable. And in this case, the victims involved are women, children and disabled people. Nobody deserves to live off wages so low that they can barely afford the essentials like food and shelter. There should be efforts of improvement taken in order to change things into a better working environment for these abused workers. It has been proven that a person’s work environment affects a their emotional and physical state, and if these workers are working in a environment that is so abusive than obviously it can affect them very negatively. Children are detached from their families; they are not even permitted to take a break in order visit their families. The working conditions are intense moreover the most disturbing is that women are forced to by their boss to take birth control pills to prevent future pregnancy, the boss are obviously not supporting maternity leave.

As the Pro-sweatshop movement states that there are worst jobs such as trash picking, prostitution and in worst-case scenario unemployment. It's all about free will and acknowledging that a person has the right and the ability to make decisions for themselves. But these workers are victims, who are not really left with a choice, in other words, it is either starvation or minimum wage.

Do you think that the West should get involved in these countries, in order to improve the worker’s condition?


Got a comment I wrote down for my first Humanities project.

Why do sweatshops in Bangladesh favour bad working conditions over good?

I disagree on how the working conditions that managers are putting pressure on to their workers are ethical, because it goes against all the moral values and claims that the workers would attempt to deliver and answer, since at the time of working, there is no one to help them out. All there is is the negative deontological approach managers have on their workers; often they treat the workers in a corruptive way. Therefore, working conditions are unethical.

An ideal ethical claim would be heavily based on virtue ethics, because the managers must recognize the values of the workers, mostly fundamental, as well as attempt to reconcile with them, in order for better working conditions to arise. If managers override the normative claims a specialist in virtue ethics would address, and instead replace them with their own prudential claims, then the working conditions in the sweatshops should be considered as crimes since they were posed by managers.

This is an assumption, but one ethical implication is, if the West does get involve in revolutionizing the working conditions in Bangladesh, it could take six months or over just to get a positive effect, because they need to think about what are the consequences of manipulating the working conditions that will then affect us and the other countries.

Looking at this question in a consequentialist’s point of view, it depends solely on the values of the western world. Are we a society that values equality, freedom, and good working conditions? Or are we a society that values leisure, career, power and wealth? Sadly I believe that after weighing out the pros and cons of giving help to these countries, most will find that giving help will not advantage them enough and decide to let it be. Isn’t this why we have not done anything to help these poor people yet?

I think you bring up an interesting issue. As a matter of fact, the topic would be interesting if looked at from a consequentialist's perspective. On one hand, sweatshops are able to provide companies with large profit margins. On the other hand, said sweatshops hinder their workers' quality of life. Therefore, depending on one's values, one might state that sweatshops cause more good than harm by weighing the consequences. For instance, if one values health, they’ll oppose sweatshops because of the employees’ low wages. In fact, a sweatshop employee’s salary can barely supply them with enough money to pay for food. Therefore, their health is poor because of their bad nutrition. Nonetheless, one who values wealth over health will see sweatshops as a necessary evil to make a desirable amount of profit. This thus creates a conflict of values.
On a separate note, I strongly agree with your statement regarding the fact that it is immoral to have a worker live off a wage that can't even pay off simple needs like food or shelter. I am taking an deontologicalist's point of view with this assertion. It doesn't matter whether workers have to choose between a fiendish salary or no job at all, as no human should be treated as poorly as sweatshop employees.
In addition, one could respond to the issue using virtue ethics. Taking this approach, one who values the rights of their employees would put an end to the inhumane working conditions imposed by sweatshops. They'd do this with the good intention of benefitting a group of people by giving the staff a better environment to live in, along with safer and healthier lives.

Sweatshops in developing countries are a sad sight, and we should not encourage them with our money. In order to improve their working conditions, we should buy from companies, or factories that value their workers, and pay reasonable wages to their employees. However, these clothes cost more money, and most westerners value money more than they value the life of a person they will never meet, and therefore will not mind buying cheap clothes from sweatshops in developing nations. It is sad that people have to go through this kind of life for many years. However, this happens to every nation that goes through industrialization, only we have done it a long time ago.

In my mind’s eye, it’s quite obvious that this is far from being a clear cut situation with a right and wrong answer, as is probably the case for most people who have some sort of understanding of the situation. Had this not been the case, the topic would not be subjected to the heated debate it is currently facing and the issue would have been resolved long ago. There’s quite a bit of nuance to the circumstances here and parsing through it is not the easiest of things. For instance, can we definitively say that the working conditions these people are exposed to really nefarious enough to nullify the gains of working a steady job with a higher salary? Apparently, if the living costs in Bangladesh are low enough for a person to live reasonably well at sixty dollars a month, is two thirds of that really all that unacceptable? This is not to say that the working conditions are directly related to salary; I agree that they should be improved regardless of other external factors. However, as these changes are far from being on the immediate horizon, it ought be discussed whether it should be considered an acceptable alternative to poverty until the changes occur. Personally, my belief is that it is a very sad day when someone needs to sacrifice their own health and safety just to make a minimalist living; though I really value health and keeping one’s physical integrity, if no alternatives are present to keep out of extreme poverty, the choice is already made, though it isn’t necessarily a good one. Just the least terrible one.

I think that one of the only ways we can stop sweatshops from occurring is by just wanting to pay more for our products. Sweatshops are driven by a company’s will to keep the customer happy. Something that will keep the customer happy is dropping their prices. The only way they can go about this is by dropping their production costs and they do so by giving contracts to sweatshops. I think something that often times is forgotten when trying to solve a problem is finding the origin of it. I believe that if we weren’t so cheap, we wouldn’t have created sweatshops. The only problem is, if we decide to want to pay more, we’re going to ask for higher wages and this means that production costs will go up in companies and they’re going to have the same problem again because they won’t want to lose profit. The only way this could work is if the western world decides to be content with less. We can’t lie to ourselves though because materialism has become implanted into our minds. I think that sweatshops will always exist it just comes down to will it be illegal and made worst because there will be even less control than there already is or will we slowly with time improve the workers’ conditions as the western world improves also. You can read up more about sweatshops by following this link:

Virtue ethics theory was inspired by Aristotle. It suggests that a person who believes in virtue ethics will possess ideal character traits and will know the perfect balance of how and when to right in certain situations. Concerning this post, the manager must recognize his workers value in order for them to produce quality work. An employer should possess the trait of well-treating his employees, and not go lesser than that.

Virtue ethics theory was inspired by Aristotle. It suggests that a person who believes in virtue ethics will possess ideal character traits and will know the perfect balance of how and when to right in certain situations. Concerning this post, the manager must recognize his workers value in order for them to produce quality work. An employer should possess the trait of well-treating his employees, and not go lesser than that.

About the author