Current Factory Work Conditions in Vietnam
What are sweatshops?
For years, human rights groups have been protesting the working conditions of sweatshop laborers in countries around the world. Sweatshops are environments in which workers participate in activities that are considered unacceptably dangerous or difficult. Critics cite the long hours employees work, the very low pay employees receive, the use of child labor, dangerous working environments, employer abuse and lack of worker rights as reasons for why they do not support sweatshops.
Sweatshops in Vietnam
Sweatshops can exist in any country, but one such country that has received a lot of media attention over the years has been Vietnam. Although Vietnam has been the poster child for anti-sweatshop activists, little has been done to change sweatshop working conditions in that country. The only thing activists have been able to do is beg foreign companies that operate sweatshops in Vietnam to improve working and living conditions and hope that the companies will listen. Many foreign clothing, textile and fashion companies choose to open factories in Vietnam because they can save huge amounts of money by paying extremely low wages to their workers.
Nike: A Study in Exploitation
One of the most well known companies that operate sweatshops out of Vietnam is Nike, a company that manufactures shoes, clothing and sports equipment. A study done in 2001 by the Vietnam Labor Watch documented several cases of labor exploitation in Vietnamese Nike factories. The study found that Nike was hiring workers under the age of eighteen. Workers who were interviewed for the study complained that they were only being paid $1.60 a day even though they needed at least $3.00 a day to make ends meet. The study lists documented cases of humiliation and corporal punishment being administered to workers in factories for various violations. During an eight hour shift, workers were only allowed to go to the bathroom once and were not allowed to drink water more than twice. If workers did not work overtime, the factory would threaten to withhold their wages. Many workers ended up working 80 hours of forced overtime per month. The study also found that there were not enough doctors and nurses in the factories to provide medical care for the workers. Although there were several health and safety policies that the Ho Chi Minh City Health Department recommended, none of them were ever implemented.
What is being done?
Although many companies in Vietnam operate sweatshops, since Nike is one of the largest it is the one that gets singled out for the majority of the criticism. If activists can persuade Nike to change working conditions for their factories, many other companies might take note and consider changing as well. If you someone who is against sweatshops, you may be dismayed to learn that you could be purchasing clothing from a company that has sweatshops in Vietnam and not even know it. The next time you are on a clothing website that features various clothing brands, do some research before making a purchase.