The question that many people ask when first introduced to the issue is “why will people work for so little? Why don’t they just leave?” The simple answer is that they have no other choices. As low as the wages are, they are more than nothing, and more than can be made working in agriculture where two thirds of the Asian workforce is employed.[i]There simply are not many alternatives in those countries and regions where sweatshops thrive. The less developed the country, the more likely the wages are to be low and the working conditions poor because of the severe lack of better alternatives. [ii] Similarly, the larger the population of impoverished people, as in India, the more likely the wages are to decrease because though some people may reject the low paying jobs, there will always be enough people willing to do whatever it takes simply to survive[iii]. One reason for this lack of options is that in the apparel and shoe industries a small number of very large corporations (for example, the “big three” in athletic shoes: Nike, Adidas and Reebok) have monopolies on the market. If other companies, offering fairer wages and better working conditions, were able to compete with these giants they would provide those alternatives necessary for workers to become free from the sweatshops[iv].  Wages are also kept low due to the inability of workers to engage in collective bargaining (i.e. unions). [v] Though unions are legally protected in most countries, it is common for sweatshops to discriminate against union members and fire union leaders or activists. Governments also often try to suppress unionization, believing that a compliant work force will make them more attractive to foreign investment. Without unions, it is very difficult for workers to make their voices heard or create change due to the immense power of the corporations.

[i] {Mandle, 2000}

[ii] {Mandle, 2000}

[iii] {D'Mello, 2003}

[iv] {D'Mello, 2003}

[v] {Mandle, 2000}