[Marxism] Child/slave labor in India makes Gap clothes

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sun Oct 28 07:06:54 MDT 2007

Observer, Sunday October 28, 2007
Indian 'slave' children found making low-cost clothes destined for Gap
Dan McDougall in New Delhi

Child workers, some as young as 10, have been found working in a textile 
factory in conditions close to slavery to produce clothes that appear 
destined for Gap Kids, one of the most successful arms of the high 
street giant.

Speaking to The Observer, the children described long hours of unwaged 
work, as well as threats and beatings.

Gap said it was unaware that clothing intended for the Christmas market 
had been improperly subcontracted to a sweatshop using child labour. It 
announced it had withdrawn the garments involved while it investigated 
breaches of the ethical code imposed by it three years ago.

The discovery of the children working in filthy conditions in the 
Shahpur Jat area of Delhi has renewed concerns about the outsourcing by 
large retail chains of their garment production to India, recognised by 
the United Nations as the world's capital for child labour.

According to one estimate, more than 20 per cent of India's economy is 
dependent on children, the equivalent of 55 million youngsters under 14.

The Observer discovered the children in a filthy sweatshop working on 
piles of beaded children's blouses marked with serial numbers that Gap 
admitted corresponded with its own inventory. The company has pledged to 
convene a meeting of its Indian suppliers as well as withdrawing tens of 
thousands of the embroidered girl's blouses from the market, before they 
reach the stores. The hand-stitched tops, which would have been sold for 
about £20, were destined for shelves in America and Europe in the next 
seven days in time to be sold to Christmas shoppers.

With endorsements from celebrities including Madonna, Lenny Kravitz and 
Sex and the City star Sarah Jessica Parker, Gap has become one of the 
most successful and iconic brands in fashion. Last year the firm 
embarked on a huge poster and TV campaign surrounding Product Red, a 
charitable trust for Africa founded by the U2 lead singer Bono.

Despite its charitable activities, Gap has been criticised for 
outsourcing large contracts to the developing world. In 2004, when it 
launched its social audit, it admitted that forced labour, child labour, 
wages below the minimum wage, physical punishment and coercion were 
among abuses it had found at some factories producing garments for it. 
It added that it had terminated contracts with 136 suppliers as a 

In the past year Gap has severed contracts with a further 23 suppliers 
for workplace abuses.

Gap said in a statement from its headquarters in San Francisco: 'We 
firmly believe that under no circumstances is it acceptable for children 
to produce or work on garments. These allegations are deeply upsetting 
and we take this situation very seriously. All of our suppliers and 
their subcontractors are required to guarantee that they will not use 
child labour to produce garments. In this situation, it's clear one of 
our vendors violated this agreement and a full investigation is under way.'

Professor Sheotaj Singh, co-founder of the DSV, or Dayanand Shilpa 
Vidyalaya, a Delhi-based rehabilitation centre and school for rescued 
child workers, said he believed that as long as cut-price embroidered 
goods were sold in stores across Britain, America, continental Europe 
and elsewhere in the West, there would be a problem with unscrupulous 
subcontractors using children.

'It is obvious what the attraction is here for Western conglomerates,' 
he told The Observer. 'The key thing India has to offer the global 
economy is some of the world's cheapest labour, and this is the saddest 
thing of all the horrors that arise from Delhi's 15,000 inadequately 
regulated garment factories, some of which are among the worst 
sweatshops ever to taint the human conscience.

'Consumers in the West should not only be demanding answers from 
retailers as to how goods are produced but looking deep within 
themselves at how they spend their money.'

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