'I got hired at a Bangladesh sweatshop. Meet my 9-year-old boss'




Tough story. Any idea who sells the clothing?


I'm sure she brings more maturity to her job than many supervisors.


Yeah, it's kind of crazy the conditions and that a child is enduring them and yet I understand that it is putting food on the table. But...at the same time someone is getting rich off of her back aches and sore fingers. I have been noticing a steady rise in the cost of apparel. Clearly, the increase isn't due to paying these laborers additional income. I would like to know which stores think paying so little for so much work is okay. I'm certain that some of the clothing is shipped here.



Interesting that the boss was a sewing operator himself, then got a loan and opened the factory in the article. Hard to resent him specifically - he is providing work, trying to better his life, and if he provided anything special he'd be out of business.

At the same time, 9 year olds should not be working anywhere, and definitely not in a factory. The factory owner in question probably lacks the power to change things. The factory workers certainly do. So what remains is us - the consumers. I have shirts made in India, and now I feel really crappy about that. I am not rich, but I am also not anywhere near as poor as these kids.

The same applies to our coffee, chocolate, much of our food supply, gasoline, and many of the other things we all buy and like to buy for cheap. There is not an easy solution.


Yes, I want brand names so I know who to boycott, the pigs.


The increase is due to higher salaries for CEOs and the product has been shipped here for many years at the loss of fair wages and benefits paid to American workers.


What we have today is not a real free market. It's mercantilism combined with feudalism, disguised in free market language.

If we actually implemented true free trade, we'd need to have a system of regulations to stop the creep of un-free trade into the system. Too big to fail companies would never arise because they'd be broken up to prevent that, there'd be regulations against outsourcing to places that don't meet the standard, checks against stock market speculation, almost a 100% estate tax,...

True free trade looks a lot like Communism!


I think that is a rather pessimistic point of view.

First off, I am not sure why you are advocating mercantilism. (A system that "was a cause of frequent European wars in that time and motivated colonial expansion.") I guess I fail to see where that system would succeed today, although perhaps you are talking about only certain specifics.

As for manufacturing, the US is still a powerhouse manufacturer. China just out paced the US in 2011 or 2012, but it is still about a fifth of the global manufacturing output.

As for who has it benefited? I'd say just about everyone. There is little point in moving manufactures overseas if you can't lower your price point as well. Everyone hates Walmart for some reason, but there is no other place that will let the poor stretch their dollar. Advanced wonderful gadgets like smart phones are priced that people in the trailer parks can afford them. US based manufacturing employees enjoy some pretty decent wages on average.

As for people like Meem, I would argue she is, under the circumstances, better off than if there were no textile manufacturers to work for. Meem works because her family needs the extra income she can bring in. If she didn't have that opportunity - then what? If she lived in a rural area, she could help out by the man hours on the farm. Otherwise you end up with things like child prostitution or being forced to beg on the streets.

One can look to China to see that people like Meem have a hope of a better future. Since China's explosion of growth, we have seen an explosion of middle class citizens. People who had no future as poor farmers could make enough to support themselves and send some money home by working in factories. As time has progressed, these factory workers wages have slowly increased as well.

It isn't a perfect system, but people are doing what they can to be part of it and take what opportunity it can afford them.


False dichotomy. With its agricultural output, Bengal (both East and West) should be at least self-sufficient, not begging barely paying jobs. The culture of education there is highly advanced - Shantiniketan, for crying out loud - and the location at the head of the Bay of Bengal is a particularly strong one. Burma to one side is equally productive, and South India on the other is a success story even today. A thousand years ago, the Bay was chock filled with trade going up and down between the Coromandel Coast, Bengal, Burma and Malaya, all the way up to Vietnam and the Philippines. Most of Bengal's famines come down to poor management rather than crop failure.

What they need is a bit of peace and a bit of infrastructure building. They shouldn't be scrambling for the scraps off the tables of the West (or even the East).

Not the ideal example, I think. Have you seen their air quality recently?

Besides, as their wages increase, production is being shifted elsewhere. Outsourcing for megacorps is not a sustainable strategy, nor is prostitution of your environment in the interests of richer countries, as we've found out time and again.

Even Bangladesh has better options, but they'll naturally take time to develop - even if allowed to develop...


I don't have the numbers in front of me - and my Google-Fu is weak and I want to go to bed - so I don't know just how great we used to be, the amount of money brought in per year via manufacturing adjusted for inflation. But IIRC, we did see some sectors move over seas, and other sectors grew, making much more valuable things than plastic widgets at Walmart. At any rate, to just now being edged out by China and producing a 5th of the worlds manufacturing I think still shows manufacturing is strong in the US.

How's that now - because there are many minimum wage jobs?

No - my point in showing that manufacturing jobs paid well was to show that manufacturing is robust and profitable in the US.

Economic classes will flux. While we have seen a small decline, China went from virtually non-existent to a new middle class in a short period of time. I would hope more places experience something similar.


I guess I am not getting your point. Ok, if they had better agriculture they might be more self sufficient. But obviously something is lacking if people need to send their kids to work to eat. No one works a shit job if there are other options for them. I am not sure what 1000 years ago has to do with anything. I am sure there were many poor and exploited people back then.

China isn't an idolized example, but it's a real one. There is real progress and growth being made there. I'm sure India is experiencing some as well too. Not sure what air quality has to do with much. Our air quality was horrible too until they started to enact all the environmental protections. With their rapid expansion they were not focused on things like that, and it will be something they obviously will have to address at some point.

Micro-loans like in your link I think are a wonderful thing. Perhaps Hamid from the story used one to start his business. Now he has 45 employees and a small factory.


Guess I'm slow - you will have to be more specific.


Funny, I thought I was discussing (among other things) the reality of how these sweatshops, while undesirable, did provide some people things they would otherwise not have. Stuff like this, and worse, used to be common in the US. I am sure as things progress in India it will get better, her dad will be able to support the whole family and she can go to school. If not her, then her children.

I was also going to point out that on one hand we are abhorred that Meem has to endure her conditions, and on the other hand you bemoan the loss of manufacturing power and jobs in the US. But with out that shift to overseas, Meem and millions like her in China and elsewhere would not have the opportunity to make money like they do now. Share the wealth, right? Even though it has a negative effect on some people in the US, it has some positive effects for some people elsewhere.

Life isn't always pretty or fair. I tend to approach things from a realistic angle.


There's lots of moral ambiguity here.

A hundred years ago, America had lots of child labor and they were glad to have it.
Our middle class has been sacrificed, but fewer people overseas are starving.,
The middle class Americans that gave up their livelihoods were in no way responsible for the plight of people overseas.


Global output has skyrocketed over the past century. Partially that is increased population, but the vast majority of that increase has been directly a result of technological advancement.

This is not a bad thing. Most jobs I've had would not have existed or been economically viable 100 years ago, even 50 years ago. A great many jobs and businesses are able to exist now that were inimaginable even 20 years ago.

But we find ourselves in a dilemma. I have a small business that sells a few things online. Outside of a 'fair trade' niche - which is fine if you can manage it - if I don't minimize costs I will not sell my product - people will go elsewhere. And I have never heard of a fair trade DVD, or shirt. Competition is fierce and the stakes are large - especially for large corporations, but also for all the millions of microbusinesses that are cropping up in the internet environment.

We have a historical reason to point the finger at producers - exploiting people like Meem. Ditto the retailers - making a profit on the backs of people like Meem. But I have trouble with the idea of resenting Meem's boss - who is also a small operator and trying to function in a fiercely competitive environment. I have trouble resenting the retailers - who usually operate on a <1% margin.

What remains are us - the consumers. In another discussion about food I made the case that I cannot afford to buy local organic etc. I make the same argument about clothes and other products. But something must be done, because 9 year olds should not be working. It squanders their potential and shames us all.

What we need is regulation. Maybe states are obsolete and we need something global. But good luck with that.


Wal-Mart and The Gap are the two biggest retailers that refused to sign on for safety measures.



You would also need to let humans freely cross borders to sell their labor wherever they wish on the "free market", which is one of many things those holding the bankrupt ideology of neoliberalism will not accept.


I agree. Our current system of states is simply not up to the task of regulating for the global good. They are not designed for the job, and never were.

However, the Westphalian structure of states is rooted in an 18th century idea of what we need from government (and what they need from us). That is changing, and right now it is changing through gradual and deliberate weakening of state structures. At one end multinational corporations are eroding and evading any attempt at regulations, rendering states costly irrelevancies (when it comes to trade, labor and other issues like environment). At the other end we are all using rapidly expanding communications technologies to become more than just an American, a Brit, or a Laotian etc. This is not evenly distributed, but it is happening. 100 years ago events in Bengal or Saskatoon or Cleveland would have been a complete mystery to almost everyone not directly involved.

So we need a global regulatory body - a government. But given the power that resides in existing states, that is not likely to happen anytime soon. So we have a malfunctioning system that still has some benefits for many people, and has enormous benefits for a few people - who will fight to keep those benefits. Any system with a fatal flaw will eventually break down, including this one. That may be already underway, or not. Eventually states need to be replaced or subsumed, but it might not happen in our lifetimes - UN notwithstanding.

Meanwhile we are left with choices as consumers. But those choices are constrained as we all operate in the same economic system - I don't have much money either (though much more than Meem).


Thanks for that.