Modern consumer fashion comes at a cost, according to a new book published in Sweden. A global fashion retailer is accused of exploiting preteen workers in the book.
H&M, a clothing form based in Sweden, has contracts with two factories in Myanmar that employ children as young as 14 to work more than 12 hours a day, according to the authors of the new book Modeslavar. The children are paid less than $3 a day, the lowest minimum wage in the world, based on a report in The Guardian.
“How was your shirt so cheap?” the book asks. “The Western world often talks of the democratization of fashion, how the cheap clothing chain allows everyone to dress fashionably…Meanwhile, it is reported repeatedly about the clothing industry’s ugly underbelly, where slave factories, deadly poisons, and child labor are part of everyday life. Nothing indicates that it has gotten better. How can this continue?”
The authors traveled in Southeast Asia to report on “the people who pay the real price for our cheap clothes.”
Zu Zu, who started work at the age of 14, told Modeslavar authors Moa Kärnstrand and Tobias Andersson Akerblom that the Myanmar clothes factories “employed anyone who wanted to work.”
The writers claim to have spoken with several 15-year-old girls who were working through 10 p.m. at two factories, Myanmar Century Liaoyuan Knitted Wear and Myanmar Wedge Garment, located close to the capital city of Yangon.
Long hours like this are in violation of the laws both of Myanmar and the International Labor Organization, which sets the minimum working age at 14 in countries like Myanmar “where the economy and educational facilities are insufficiently developed.”