alex berg



Though the sweatshops of Europe are long destroyed, the scrape for simple jobs in overpopulated cities and the struggling country's dependence on foreign factories to help their economy still occurs today, and the environments of these sweatshops have still not improved.

  • Another pattern between the Industrial Revolution era and current times is the overpopulated cities having to work in sweatshops to support their families and keep their homes, this happens in old time Europe and current day China.

  • The practice of a country attempting to save its economy and become industrialized by bringing in foreign industries and ideas continues to support struggling countries, such as Indonesia, today.

Forced Labor During IR 1800s-1900s VS Forced Labor Today

Europe VS China & Honduras

These industrial factories provided unskilled labor to people who needed to support their families in overpopulated environments


IR: Europe-textiles & mining

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A time when Europe was successful considering its high industrial success, but also a time of over-populated diseased cities, where people were scrambling for the simplest of jobs to support their families and keep their cramped homes in the cities.

Gas Lighting expanded work hours: 14-16 Hours a day
  • Men
    • High demand for carpenters, metalworkers, mechanists
    • Tried to be engineers and start businesses
    • Otherwise their jobs were for unskilled labor
  • Women
    • Mainly worked in textile mills (can't do hard labor)
    • Got 1/3 or 2/3 the wages men earned
  • Children
    • 2/3 labor consisted of children
    • More docile, crawl under mills to sweep, small hands (for tying textile threads)
    • Mining: children pull coal carts through tunnels
    • Often punished if failed or fall asleep

TODAY: China--Everything is "Made In China"

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In Sarah Stillman's article (2005) on sweatshops she discusses the terrible working conditions a girl Li Chunmei and her sister Li Mei must face daily when creating Disney Toys. Li Mei died "coughing up blood, body rocking back and forth on the bathroom floor."
  • In December, during the Holidays, 2,800 factories will force their workers to pump out manufactured toys in time for the holiday season
  • The workers will work 15 hours ad ay, 7 days a week, 30 days a month for 12 cents an hour
  • They must handle toxic chemicals with their bare hands
  • They will also be physically and sexually abused
  • They do this because they must support their farmland families struggling to survive in modern day and there are simply not enough jobs to support such a large population, so these factories provide a perfect opportunity for lots of unskilled labor for a wage.

TODAY: Honduras--P-Diddy's "Sean John" T-shirts (Old Navy & Polo Sport too!)

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  • Another sweatshop Stillman (2005) discussed were the ones in Honduras
  • Lydda Gonzalez worked to sew the sleeves onto a line of T-shirts (at Southeast Textiles factory)
  • The shirts were $40 and she got 15 cents a shirt (she sewed ~190 shirts a day)
  • These shirts were Lydda's only chance to pull her family out of poverty
  • She faced physically, verbal and sexual abuse
  • Worked 12 hour shifts, 6 days a week, and mandatory unpaid overtime


IR: Egypt & India VS Bangladesh, Nicaragua and Indonesia

These industrial factories provided struggling countries with a chance at a more successful economy.

IR: Egypt-exported raw cotton

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  • Muhammad Ali imported advisors & technicians to begin cotton mills, ship yards and weapon factories (to help Egyptian economy)
  • Peasants grow wheat & cotton to export
  • Mainly plantations

IR: India- until late 18th century India was a BIG producer & exporter of cotton

  • Skilled spinners & weavers of cotton
  • British East India Company set up factories that put spinners out of work
    • became landless peasants, scrapping for work
  • Indian Entrepreneurs created
    • Merchant, Cowasjee Nanabhoy Davar, began textile mills (jobs) and helped the cotton industry
    • Railroad and coal mining also provided labor

TODAY: Bangladesh & Nicaragua--Hats for Cornell, Columbia and Georgetown and Sears & J.C. Penny clothes

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  • 13 year olds knit caps for colleges, and sew garments for big businesses
  • Often cheated of their wages
  • Beaten, starved and molested
  • If they speak up they get fired or abused

TODAY: Indonesia--Nike: Behind the Swoosh UTube

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  • Many kids in Indonesia endure the same terrible working conditions as all the other sweatshops
  • Working to piece together Nike's sports gear



At least 12.3 million people around the world are in forced labor, and they are dealing with the same, possibly worse, conditions the Europeans had to deal with in the sweatshops in the 1800s. Abuse, disease, and terrible wages are all common factors of global sweatshops. This situation has still not been fixed, many undeserving people are suffering terrible working conditions and for minimal wages. Forced labor in efficient factories has created some great products ranging from sports gear to child toys, but it's time to take some of the billions in cash its produced and put it to an effort in improving working conditions for the people that make such large industries successful.

Works Cited
Sarah Stillman, Young women, Sweatshops, and the Ethics of Globalization, New York, NY, 2005
Textbook