In the quest to rebuild Haiti and assist the country in recovery, international leaders are planning on expanding the low-wage garment industry. President Obama and his administration are also on board, encouraging the retailers of the United States to purchase at least 1 percent of their inventory from Haiti.According to an Associated Press article entitled, “Can low-paying garment industry save Haiti?” by Jonathan M. Katz, the Haitian garment workers make a minimum wage of 125 gourdes per day, averaging about $3.09 for eight hours of labor. Producing 600 pieces in a day used to mean a bonus of $2.47 for the worker, but now it is only worth an extra $1.23. This low-paid wage is not enough to live on, yet factory workers deny running “sweatshops.”Before the earthquake in Haiti that claimed over 200,000 lives, the unemployment rate was estimated at between 60-80 percent. According to the Associated Press, most Haitians do not have steady incomes and what little money they make comes from doing odd jobs or relying on remittances from abroad that make up a quarter of Haiti’s seven billion gross domestic products.The economic growth plan commissioned by United Nations’ Secretary General Ban Ki-moon last year is centered on the garment industry. Former President Bill Clinton is promoting the low-wage garment industry in Haiti stating, “The rich will get richer, but there will be a much, much bigger middle class, with pour people pouring into it at a rapid rate.”Haiti currently has a trade deal with the United States known as HOPE II (the Haiti Hemispheric Opportunity through Partnership Encouragement Act). U.S. Congress passed HOPE II in 2008 and it allows Haiti to export textiles duty-free to the United States for at least a decade. According to the Associated Press, $513 million worth of apparel was shipped in 2009, including labels such as Hanes and New Balance. Supporters say expanding the garment industry in Haiti could quickly produce thousands of jobs and because of the existing preferential trade deal with the United States and the cheap Haitian labor, they say the industry would thrive and eventually rebound the nation. There are currently 25,000 garment jobs in Haiti. The government wishes to expand the industry with two new sites outside of Port-au-Prince.Instead of bringing manufacturing companies to our country, we continue to create “sweatshops” overseas in countries like China, Africa, and Haiti, where the companies pay employees low-wages, then export and sell the products in the United States for a high cost. The United States lost 2.3 million jobs as a result of the trade imbalance with China alone between 2001-2007. In today’s society, we have become too stingy with money. Instead of creating jobs for our own unemployed and paying a minimum wage of over seven dollars to workers, our nation is sending jobs overseas where they can pay little money to employees and then make heaps in return. An executive at Volkswagen once said "the cost of labor in China is nothing." It is estimated there are 760 million laborers in China. One Chinese analyst predicted China would be the main source of cheap labor for the next 30 to 60 years.Among these cheap laborers are millions of children. Child labor persists even where it has been declared illegal, and the laws are widely ignored and poorly enforced. Worldwide, children work in hazardous conditions, often enduring beatings, humiliation and sexual violence by their employers. Of all the world’s children, approximately one in seven is involved in some form of child labor.By definition, child labor involves work performed by children under the age of 18 (depending on the country). The International Labour Organization (ILO) is a “UN agency that brings together governments, employers and workers of its member states in common action to promote decent work throughout the world.” According to the ILO, more than 200 million children in the world today are involved in child labor. Children work to survive and because their families financially depend on it.According to the Child Rights Information Network (CRIN) the highest numbers of child laborers are in the Asia/Pacific region. However, the highest proportion of child laborers is in Sub-Saharan Africa, where 26% of children, totaling about 49 million, work. Across Africa, there are an estimated 80 million child workers, a number that could rise to 100 million by 2015.According to the ILO, 41 percent of all African children between the ages of 5 and 14 are involved in some form of economic activity, compared with 21 percent in Asia and 17 percent in Latin America. Among girls, the participation rate also is the highest: 37 percent in Africa, 20 percent in Asia and 11 percent in Latin America. Also, in China there are an estimated 10-20 million child workers under the age of 16.President Obama’s administration and members of the United Nations are advocating for the low-wage garment industry’s expansion, calling it an “economic growth plan.” However, if the low-wage industry continues to expand, more people in our own country will become unemployed because of the outsourcing of these jobs. In addition, more children in those countries will fall victim to child labor, despite what the laws say. Society is too caught up in the love of money to realize the seriousness of the issue. What happened to equality?
“The write-up on Haiti below is a prime example of what is happening to our economy in today's society. The large corporations are becoming money hungry and creating sweatshops, like the ones talked about below, that hirefor little pay and mass produce to make back millions. The problem is evenbigger than most imagine, with most sweatshops hiring underage children as workers and letting all the rules be swept to the side and forgotten.