Letter: Sweatshop workers

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The Independent Culture
Sir: Reading such reports makes one aware of how widespread these practices are and prompts some disturbing questions. Is the exploitation of cheap labour in the Third World necessary to sustain the lifestyles we enjoy in the First World, and do our governments share complicity with the corporations that perpetrate these crimes?

Year after year the United Nations' Human Development Reports detail the increasing disparity between the world's rich and poor, rendering millions vulnerable to the kind of exploitation, and worse, that you describe. Are we to believe that these people continue to fall behind because they are less able than us, or is it because of the systematic operation of a world economy that can only function with a pool of cheap and expendable labour?

If we believe the first explanation then, aside from a few palliative measures, all that is needed is an apathetic shrug of the shoulders before setting forth on the next shopping trip.

If we accept the alternative explanation, then what is needed is nothing less than a sea change in our lifestyles and attitudes and a restructured world economy and polity that accords equal life chances to all, wherever they are born.

Perhaps a start could be made if other newspapers followed your lead and devoted rather less coverage to the "five hours of hell" endured by Diana Ross and rather more to the plight of the women employed in the factories of Saipan.

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