Fast Fashion and Child Labor

Buying clothes on a budget has been a lot easier as more stores have been lowering their prices. As convenient as cheap clothing sounds, there is a downside to it. According to an article from The Guardian written by Josephine Moulds, “The ILO estimates that 170 million [children] are engaged in child labour, with many making textiles and garments to satisfy the demand of consumers in Europe, the US, and beyond.” 

     Child labor is very common due to the high demands and order volumes that fast fashion companies receive from day to day consumers. It is especially common in countries like Egypt, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Thailand, and China. The children perform tasks such as picking cotton and spinning mills, and work in extremely harsh, and sometimes dangerous conditions. Worst of all, the situation usually goes undetected in large companies. This happens because such a complicated system and high customer demand make it easy for the public and the company to be left in the dark. The high demand also comes with a lot of pressure, which may cause the manufacturers to ask other factories to help, where child labor may be taking place too.

     Another reason that the cycle of child labor continues is because of “recruiters”. They offer families deals that are too good for them to turn down. The low-income families are offered a large sum of money after working for a certain amount of years, a guaranteed 3 meals a day, and a possibility for their children to get an education. Living in tough economic conditions, this offer undoubtedly sparks hope for a better life. However, child labor could be stopped if companies took the time to make sure that there are fair wages and a healthy work environment for their workers, so that there wouldn’t have to be any recruiters. This situation cannot be fixed with a snap of a finger, but it can get better with time. 

     We as consumers can contribute to ending child labor. We can start by buying clothes from sustainable brands (if we can afford them) or from second hand stores. Sustainable clothing is made from fabrics made from eco friendly resources such as recycled material or sustainably grown fiber crops. The companies producing these fabrics have a safe work environment as well as eco friendly distribution and manufacturing processes. With all the extra steps they take, the clothing prices inevitably undergo a drastic increase. A few affordable (although still on the pricier side) sustainable brands are Patagonia, Pact, Alternative Apparel, Kotn, and Thought Clothing. If you are on a tighter budget, try shopping at second hand stores. Thrift stores such as Goodwill, Buffalo Exchange, Crossroads, among many others have a huge selection of clothing, shoes, and random items that have been donated. Since thrift stores are community based, remember to donate the clothes that you don’t want or wear anymore to give back to the community. 

    As mentioned earlier, this issue cannot be fixed with a snap of fingers, but it can get better with time. Instead of shopping at large fast fashion brands, try thrifting or buying from sustainable brands. This will not only help small sustainable brands, but the environment, and, most importantly, prevent child labor.