Human Trafficking in the Textile World

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Human Trafficking in the Textile World

The textile industry, particularly in developing nations, has been under scrutiny for its connections to human trafficking. The demand for cheap labor and the drive for low production costs have led to the exploitation of vulnerable populations, with many workers living in deplorable conditions and under coercive employment terms. This topic delves into the dark underbelly of fast fashion and the challenges in ensuring ethical supply chains. At PapersOwl, you’ll also come across free essay samples that pertain to Economy topic.

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For thousands of years forms of slavery and human trafficking have existed; however, the it was noted best in the 1400s when the European slave trading industry began in Africa (“”Timeline of Human Trafficking ). Slavery is defined as a condition in which individuals are owned by others, who control where they live and at what they work (What is Slavery?; the Abolition of Slavery Project ). Many argue that slavery does not exist today because it has been globally renounced that an individual is to be allowed ownership of another human being, but state that oppression, domination, and exploitation may still exist (Issa, 2017).

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In contrast, today, others argue that human trafficking may be seen in a similar eye. Regardless of whether it does slavery exists, there is still a presence of human trafficking throughout the world in various cities, states, countries, and continents. Interestingly, the human trafficking simply throughout the textile industry has called for reforms and means for regulation of companies supply chains. Where do those who are trafficked come from though? Does the increase in textile human trafficking come from migration or those who are native born? Or is it a combination of both? Why does human trafficking in the textile industry exist in some countries more than others and what are the conditions in which the trafficked face?

Within the International Labor Organization (ILO) study, it was estimated that around twenty to thirty million people are enslaved or subjected to forced labor in some way, within those statistics about eighteen million are late in Latin America. Commonly, this trafficking is found where there is a demand for cheap labor. The level of trafficking depends on where there are adequate legislation and awareness; in countries with little legislation, those who are trafficked are seen more are criminals for being illegal immigrants than being victims of a horrendous crime. Moreover, it is hard for many countries to determine whether immigrant workers should be defined as dangerous, for stealing locals’ jobs, or necessary to boost the economy (Betrisey, 2017). In many countries, there is a lack of a clear idea of how to fight the underground market, especially when corruption of politics exists. Laws, like the 2005 Patria Grande that was put into place as an answer to the public outcry after the 2004 sweatshop fire, move slowly and governments only prioritize making said laws when public attention is drawn into the issue; otherwise, as the attention diminishes, the judicial follow-through will remain spotty (Porembka, 2013)

In general, most countries with high human trafficking rates are also the countries with high immigration rates. Labor migration is mobile strategy socially and economically that in many ways makes exploitation more persuasive (Zimmerman & Kiss, 2017). The underground economy is emerging in even the wealthiest counties where the word of mouth recruitment system makes workers more prone to taking irregular jobs and finding their own customers (Reyneri, 2003). Immigrants will pledge themselves against loans of money without the length and nature of the services every being defined through contract slavery. Through contract slavery, they sign or verbally agree to a contract prior to their arrival to their new country, and are guaranteed entrance into the new country, food, and shelter; however, generally after they arrive on site, many workers find themselves worked for little to no pay and being physically confined (Issa, 2017).

In the textile industry, alone, many facilities go unregulated where labor is forced on women and children and poor working conditions are common (Hodge 2016). Overpopulation and technological backwardness within the underground economy are the main factors of the deterioration of working conditions. In 2011 in Argentina, alone, there were 51,000 registered and 120,000 unregistered workers in the textile industry. They were found in either small household workshops or larger factories where they worked over twelve hours a day and in some cases were held captive by physical restraints or threats of deportation. Between the 2010-2013 inspections of sixty-two unregistered clothing workshops, more than one-third of the wages were below minimum wage and nearly two-thirds of the workers were undocumented (Kabat, Desalvo, Egan 2017). Many workers must pay for their own training, slack seasons, economic stagnations, and the unsuccessful marketing strategies of brands and retailers. Furthermore, we may find that many workers are subject to violence; physical, psychological, and sexual abuse; exhausting work; and longer-term physical and psychological damage after working for these unregistered industries (Zimmerman & Kiss, 2017).

Many local sweatshops mainly produce fashionwear sold by a variety of brands and retailers in a variety of economies and societies (Bress??n & Ayel?©n, 2017). The impact can be felt in every region of the world in political, human rights, demographic, labor, health, gender, and familial aspects. The historic competitive forces, costs, and profit margins have created numerous economic structures and legally protected negotiations concerning the imbalance that facilitates informality and many of the company brands are legally protected from accepting any responsibility (Porembka, 2013), while members of the Catholic Church, non-profit organizations, and some organizations in Latin America have sound to denounce forms of slavery and human trafficking in the Dominican Republic, Bolivia, and Brazil (Issa 2017).

In addition, fighting off human trafficking proves harder than many would expect. Since the emergence of local sweatshops since the mid-1970s, there has been a lack of state support and incentives for workers to demand better working conditions. For many workers, they could lose their job and means of food and shelter. Therefore, state policies must be directed towards the control of practices of brands and retailers and must advocate, themselves, for migrant workers’ rights.

In conclusion, evidence shows there is a gap between the studies of human trafficking and native-born workers. Many governments lack solutions to diminish informal economies within their countries and rationalizations of the pros and cons of upholding persons of immigrant status within their formal society. To further this research, it would be beneficial to conduct separate studies within the unregistered facilities over nationalities and determine how or why they entered the informal economic world.


“”Timeline of Human Trafficking.””,

“”What is Slavery?; the Abolition of Slavery Project.”” Thomas Clarkson – Key Events: The Abolition of Slavery Project.,

Betrisey, D?©bora. 2017. “”Migration and Trafficking of Persons for Labor Exploitation in the Textile Workshops of Buenos Aires Under Neoliberalism.”” Latin American Perspectives 44 (6): 63-76. doi:10.1177/0094582X17705860.

Bress??n, Jer??nimo Montero and Ayel?©n Arcos. 2017. “”How do Migrant Workers Respond to Labour Abuses in Local Sweatshops ?”” Antipode 49 (2): 437-454. doi:10.1111/anti.12250.

Dewey, Mat?­as. 2018. “”Domestic Obstacles to Labor Standards: Law Enforcement and Informal Institutions in Argentina’s Garment Industry.”” Socio-Economic Review 16 (3): 567-586. doi:10.1093/ser/mwx028.

Hodge, Neil. 2016. “”Human Rights and Corporate Wrongs Exposing the Dark Side of Corporate Supply Chains.”” Risk Management 63 (6): 32-36.

Issa, Daniela. 2017. “”Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking in Latin America.”” Latin American Perspectives 44 (6): 4-15. doi:10.1177/0094582X17725488.

Kabat, Marina, Agustina Desalvo, and Julia Egan. 2017. “”The Tip of the Iceberg: Media Coverage of Slave Labor in Argentina.”” Latin American Perspectives 44 (6): 50-62. doi:10.1177/0094582X17699909.

Pembrooke, Anna. 2013. “”Argentina’s Informal Economy: A Case Study of Patria Grande upon the Informal Textile Industry.””Georgetown University.

Reyneri, Emilio. 2003. “”Immigration and the Underground Economy in New Receiving South European Countries: Manifold Negative Effects, Manifold Deep-Rooted Causes.”” International Review of Sociology 13 (1): 117-143. doi:10.1080/0390670032000087023.

Zimmerman, Cathy and Ligia Kiss. 2017. “”Human Trafficking and Exploitation: A Global Health Concern.”” PLoS Medicine 14 (11): e1002437. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1002437.

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Human Trafficking in the Textile World. (2019, Feb 28). Retrieved from