Why Economists Are Wrong About Sweatshops and the Antisweatshop Movement

Miller, John
January 2003
Challenge (05775132);Jan/Feb2003, Vol. 46 Issue 1, p93
Academic Journal
The article discusses the views of economists on sweatshops. The student-led antisweatshop movement that took hold on many college campuses during the late 1990s should have pleased economists. Studying the working conditions faced by factory workers across the globe offered powerful lessons about the workings of the world economy, the dimensions of world poverty, and most students' privileged position in that economy. On top of that, these students were dedicated not just to explaining sweatshop conditions, but also to changing them. They wanted desperately to do something to put a stop to the brutalization and assaults on human dignity suffered by the women and men who made their jeans, t-shirts, or sneakers. On many campuses, student activism succeeded in pressuring college administrators by demanding that clothing bearing their college logo not be made under sweatshop conditions, and, at best, that it be made by workers earning a living wage. Mainstream economists rushed to defend the positive role of low wage factory jobs, the very kind the author usually call sweatshops, in economic development and in alleviating poverty.


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