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An Inhumane Industry; Child Labor in Fashion Production

With the struggle to keep up with popular fashion trends and what’s trending in our society, it’s easy to overlook the effects of fast fashion and its impact on our world. I’m sure you’re tired of hearing about climate change and trust me, I’m with you. As citizens, we don’t usually care about things until we’ve dealt with it ourselves. Climate change is a repetitive cycle that will inevitably impact us all. Its impact has even infiltrated the fashion industry through mass production and child labor in third world countries, something many may not know about.

Every day fast fashion is created by production plants across the globe. This is notable because it permits high rates of production per worker. One of the reasons why companies like to produce their goods in other countries is because it reduces raw material costs and wages. The complex supply chain and high demand for cheaper goods, has led places like Egypt, Pakistan, Thailand, China, Bangladesh, etc., to prey on kids who are considered prime workers for the industry. 

According to the International Labor Organization, over 170 million kids are involved in child labor. According to the International Labor Organization, over 170 million kids are involved in child labor. Many countries have strict laws forbidding this, but it’s still prominent in the poorest of places. Recruiters in India convince parents that their kids will be sent to spinning mills with well-paying jobs, comfortable accommodations, and opportunities for schooling at the end of three years. In reality, they are working under appalling conditions that are equivalent to modern-day slavery. These promises make it impossible for families to turn down the opportunity due to their socioeconomic circumstances. Illegal employment of minors is especially an issue in fashion since many of the tasks required are easy and repetitive, which is most suitable for those with small hands. 

As ethical as a clothing brand may seem to be, companies may not be aware of labor abuse since the fashion industry has such tight ties to the manufacturing world. It’s easy for employers to get away with inhumane practices because children are easy to slip under the radar, especially when companies are putting pressure on their manufacturers to mass-produce within a specific timeframe. While child labor has declined by 30%, 11% of children are deprived of the right to go to school because of work. However, there are many things that we as consumers can do to fight modern-day slavery. 


  1. Shop Sustainably- Instead of buying from brands like Shein, Forever 21, Zara, etc, try hitting your local Goodwill or second-hand clothing stores. Invest in staples that you know will last a long time.

  2. Educate Yourself- Teach your friends and families about the negative effects of fast fashion and the fashion industry on children.

  3. Shop Fair Trade Brands- Invest your money into companies that center their brand around fairness and justice and utilize humane labor practices.

  4. Contact Local Legislators- Encourage your legislators to adopt codes of conduct. Use your voice to call out any companies you know that practice inhumane actions.

  5. Know Your Manufacturers- If you own a business, be aware of your vendors and visit manufacturers to ensure they are using ethical means of production.

Edna Zheng

Ball State '24

bsu fashion
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