What Countries Have Sweatshops?

Any country with manufacturing facilities without enforceable labor laws has the potential to host a sweatshop. Sweatshops are factories where workers are routinely overworked, abused, underpaid or exploited. As of 2014, at least 18 countries are known to operate sweatshops, including Bangladesh, Romania, Costa Rica, El Salvador, China, the Dominican Republic, India, Vietnam, Honduras, Indonesia, Turkey, Brazil, Haiti, Taiwan, the Ivory Coast, Nicaragua, Mexico, the United States and its territories.

Enforcing international and local labor laws is difficult because companies move production operations from one country to another. These companies claim the move is in order to take advantage of the most beneficial economic conditions.

Companies often deliberately or unknowingly sidestep direct contact with sweatshops by hiring independent contractors. These foreign contractors operate or hire factories that refuse to comply with labor laws. Garment manufacturers are the types of employers that are most often associated with sweatshops, but labor violations occur on farms or high-tech manufacturing facilities.

Proponents of sweatshops argue that the employees are better off suffering under poor or dangerous working conditions than being unemployed and facing starvation or turning to crime to survive. These companies also claim that multinational companies pay better wages through sweatshops than local companies do. Proponents believe sweatshops also help to increase the demand for workers, which creates competition and drives up wages.

Each year, the Fair Labor Association randomly selects a small percentage of factories to undergo independent audits.