In case you need more proof that your $10 top was made in less than desirable or ethical conditions, here you go. The U.S. Labor Department has expanded its list of products it says are produced by child and/or forced child labor. The latest additions to the “List of Products Produced by Forced or Indentured Child Labor" include an array of goods, but most relevant for us: Garments from Bangladesh and textiles from Cambodia. The most recent version of the list, which was released yesterday, is the sixth of its kind to document labor practices in violation of international standards. Bangladesh joins Argentina, Brazil, China, India, Jordan, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam as a source of garments resulting from child labor. Many of these countries serve as the homes to suppliers for some of the industry's biggest fast fashion retailers. H&M, for instance, employs suppliers located in China, Bangladesh, India, Cambodia, Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam. Zara's parent company, Inditex, utilizes suppliers in Argentina, Bangladesh, Brazil, China, India, Vietnam, Cambodia, Philippines, and Thailand. Neither Forever 21 nor Nasty Gal list their suppliers. However, research shows that Forever 21 manufactures in China, India, and Vietnam.
So, what about retailers, such as Nasty Gal, which has suppliers in China and India (and likely more but has changed its online listings to "imported" rather than listing the actual countries of origin), but makes a noteworthy percentage of their garments in the U.S.. Well, Made in the U.S. products does not mean they are free of potential ties to child labor, as the materials they use are imported. For 2014, Cambodia joins Bangladesh, China, Ethiopia, Nepal, and North Korea in the production of textiles by children. And already existing on the list are Pakistan, Bangladesh, and India, which export leather that was produced by child laborers. As for footwear, no new additions were made to the list this year but India, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Brazil remain on the list in this category. Last but not least, the Philippines manufactures "fashion accessories" with the help of child laborers.
Every country on this list employs child labor in the categories listed, but suppliers in Brazil, Argentina, India, Jordan, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and China utilize especially egregious practices of forced child labor in the manufacture of garments. In connection with the report, Labor Secretary Thomas Perez said there's a story behind each items listed on the report, "a child facing back-breaking labor without education or other opportunities for a better life or an adult trapped in a dismal job through deceit or threats."
Maybe just consider these facts for a second next time you are shopping …