Proceedings of the International Association for Business and Society

Volume 10, 1999

Proceedings of the Tenth Annual Meeting

Bill Shaw, Laura P. Hartman
Pages 183-194

Sweatshop Ethics
Balancing Labor Rights with Economic Development

At the close of the twentieth century, sweatshop labor remains an integral part of the world economic order. Is it always appropriate to condemn sweatshop labor? Might these practices be suitable, if not desirable, in particular economic and social settings? Is it exploitative if labor has alternative choices but freely chooses the sweatshop instead? These questions do not have easy answers. Economic analysis of developing economies presents fascinating arguments for the existence of some "sweatshop" conditions in order to allow those economies to progress. The elimination of sweatshop labor may not be warranted by economic development and their complete eradication may be only a pipe dream, but then are certain positive measures that can be taken without the dire economic consequences that are commonly attributed to interventions. This paper presented at the IABS '99 conference considered the adverse nature of sweatshop practices, address and critically examine the macroeconomic implications of sweatshops in developing economies, and balance these potentially positive consequences with ethical imperatives. The result of this examination is a prescription (if not a motivation) for organizations that choose to do business in economies based on sweatshop conditions. Alternative means exist by which to conduct business ethically in sweatshop economies. As a result of the space limitations of these proceedings, only certain sections of that original paper will be included herein and the endnotes have been removed. For a copy of the entire paper, please contact the authors.