In our last post, we discussed how fast fashion has become a global phenomenon, transforming the way we shop for clothes. How the allure of trendy and inexpensive clothing has captivated consumers, leading to a relentless cycle of consumption and disposal and how it affects our environment.
This week we will touch upon an even darker truth. We discuss fast fashion's ethical implications, especially concerning child labor, slavery, inhumane working conditions, and low wages. We delve deep into the hidden horrors of this industry and shed some light on the human cost behind the clothes we wear.
Child Labor: A Modern-Day Exploitation
One of the most distressing aspects of fast fashion is its connection to child labor. In developing countries where labor laws are lax and enforcement is weak, children are often forced to work. Children are used throughout the entire supply chain but 71% of all child labor seems to be concentrated around the agriculture stage of the supply chain. Mainly working in cotton production.
These children are robbed of their childhood, toiling long hours in harsh and hazardous environments, and receiving meager compensation. They are deprived of a better future due to the lack of proper education, abuse, and exploitation. It's hard to believe that our seemingly innocent fashion choices perpetuate this cycle of exploitation.
Slavery: An Unseen Chain in the Fashion Industry
Slavery, a practice we often associate with the dark past, still lurks in the shadows of the fast fashion industry. Migrant workers and vulnerable individuals are often lured into exploitative work situations, trapped in modern-day slavery. These individuals work against their will, subjected to physical and psychological abuse. Some factories even operate in clandestine locations to evade detection, making it challenging for authorities to uncover such heinous practices. By supporting fast fashion brands without investigating their supply chains, consumers may inadvertently contribute to modern-day slavery.
For example, poor villagers from Bangladesh are often encouraged to work in garment factories. They often sell the little possessions they have to finance the move across the country to get employment. In these factories they are exploited, often forced to work long hours in poor conditions. They are unable to quit or move away due to the crushing financial pressure due to the debt from the migration.
Inhumane Working Conditions: A Silent Suffering
Fast fashion's demand for quick production often results in inhumane working conditions for garment workers. Crowded, poorly ventilated, and unsafe factories become breeding grounds for accidents and health hazards.
Three devastating accidents in 2012 and 2013 brought the attention of the world to the issue of unsafe working conditions for garment factory workers. In 2012 there were factory firs in Ali Enterprises, Pakistan, and Tazreen Fashions in Bangladesh. These fires claimed the lives of many workers and left families in Pakistan and Bangladesh devastated. Not long after in 2013 Rana Plaza Collapsed claiming more lives.
Unsafe buildings are just the tip of the iceberg. Workers endure constant pressure to meet unrealistic production targets, leading to chronic stress and burnout. The absence of adequate rest breaks and workplace safety measures only adds to their suffering. It's often common for workers to faint while working long hours under these poor conditions.
These workers are subjected to verbal and psychological harassment and violence daily. Especially, in factories where the workforce is largely female. In pursuit of profit, fast fashion brands often overlook the welfare of their workforce, subjecting them to a life of silent desperation.
Low Wages: The Unfair Compensation Conundrum
Despite their tireless efforts in producing the clothes we love, garment workers often receive pitifully low wages. In countries with weak labor regulations, minimum wage laws may not be adequately enforced, enabling fast fashion brands to exploit cheap labor. Its estimated on average a Bangladeshi garment factory worker earns less than 95 Euro a month. This is about 3 times below the amount needed to have a normal life with access to the necessities of life. Many workers struggle to make ends meet, often living in cramped and unsanitary conditions. The vicious cycle of poverty perpetuated by low wages leads to a lack of access to education, healthcare, and a dignified standard of living for these workers and their families.
The negative effects of fast fashion from an ethical perspective are undeniable. Child labor, slavery, inhumane working conditions, low wages, and health and safety issues remain deeply entrenched in the industry's supply chains. As consumers, we hold immense power to bring about change. By making more conscious choices, supporting ethical brands, and demanding transparency in supply chains, we can become agents of change in the fight against these injustices. It is time to break free from the cycle of fast fashion and embrace a more sustainable and ethical approach to clothing consumption. By doing so, we can pave the way for a fashion industry that respects and upholds the dignity of every worker involved.