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Purchasing Ethics: Picking out Clothing With Limited Information

The United States Department of Labor has come out with a 194-page report in which it identifies products made in various countries under conditions where “there is a significant incidence of forced labor and/or child labor in production”.

The following are countries in which the Department of Labor finds there is a significant incidence of forced labor in the production of apparel:

North Korea

The following are countries in which the Department of Labor finds there is a significant incidence of child labor in the production of clothing:


The Department of Labor notes [page 44] that this is not an exhaustive list, and that the absence of a country from the list shouldn’t necessarily be taken as an indication of ethical production there:

Data can be unavailable for various reasons including that it is not collected by the government or others, or is intentionally suppressed by the government.

But let’s start with those countries in which a significant pattern of slave or child labor has been established. This much is known, but further information is limited. Under current arrangements that multinational corporations have with these countries and the United States, the use of child labor or slave labor in particular factories does not need to be acknowledged either in public documents or on clothing tags. This may change if S. 1631 is passed unaltered. But right now, if you pick up a piece of clothing at the store, you can only determine its country of origin.

With the information that you have and the information that you don’t have, I’d like to pose two questions:

When you pick up a piece of clothing at the store, will you look at its tag to note its country of origin?

How will the limited information you have about production practices affect your decision to buy that piece of clothing?

Share your answers by following the comments link below.

3 thoughts on “Purchasing Ethics: Picking out Clothing With Limited Information”

  1. J. Clifford says:

    Something I think would be even more effective than that legislation would be the further step of a government certification that foreign made products are made without slave and child labor. Have that label as a tag on the OUTSIDE of apparel, or on the front of a product’s package, and I think it would make a big difference. Keep it as an asterisk on a label hidden away, and it will make a much smaller change.

  2. Tom says:

    Wallmart and its patrons don’t give a shit.

    Builders in this country will construct or renovate your home with toxic (Chinese)drywall and shrug (feigning ignorance, and probably protected from tort law) when you and your family are sickened and can’t reside there any longer. Cigarettes, KNOWN cancer causing agents, continue to be sold to the public, and they’re made HERE.

    Yes, the poor children. Why doesn’t their own country do something about it? Perhaps the conditions there are so bad (and of course we’ll ignore our own culpability in this) that the reason parents have children is out of survival.

    Some may even remark: Hey, at least they have JOBS!

    Bottom line: it’s been going on like this for a very long time. Whether or not you and i take part in sustaining it, it’ll probably continue. (If you think THAT plight is bad, look into human trafficing!) We are a depraved lot from top to bottom, both genders and all ages. i don’t expect much better in the future, as conditions continue to deteriorate, that people will resist their base desires, horrible behavior or bankrupt morality and ethics in the call to survive. (Though why anyone would want to live in a world such as it is continues to amaze me).

    1. Jim says:

      I didn’t ask what builders will do. I asked what you will do.

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