The Instigator
Pro (for)
4 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
0 Points

On Balance, Closing Sweatshops Would Provide More Harm than Good

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 6/17/2015 Category: Economics
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,538 times Debate No: 76596
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (7)
Votes (1)




I made this impossible to accept (mainly because I can't start this for another few days), so apply if you're interested in the comments. First round is acceptance only. No new arguments in the final round. Burden of proof is shared.

Sweatshop: A factory or workshop, especially in the clothing industry, where manual workers are employed at very low wages for long hours and under poor conditions.


I accept this challenge and I look forward to a vigorous and informative debate.
Good luck:)
Debate Round No. 1


Asian Tigers: Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan, all of which have recently underwent major economic growth.
Opportunity Cost: What a person sacrifices when they choose one option over the other. (9)
Autonomy: Independence or freedom, as of the will or one's actions (14)


In order to win this debate, I must show that, on balance, closing sweatshops will bring more harm than good. I request voters remain objective and not vote emotionally, as I’m sure a lot of people disagree with me already.

C1-Economic Growth:

Sweatshops have and still are an essential stepping stone towards economic development in many countries, so closing them could prevent these countries from seeing their economies develop. Historically, some of the world’s richest countries such as the US, the UK, and Japan, had sweatshops be a large part of their economies’ development. However, more recently the 4 Asian Tiger nations have also become fully developed nations, with sweatshops being a big reason why.

These countries were not wealthy or advanced enough to support economic growth internally, so they needed to rely on exports. Since none of these nations have an abundance of natural resources, they had to rely on the ability to manufacture goods cheaply (for either multinational corporations or local companies). This still occurs today as many countries’ top exports are goods produced in sweatshops (e.g. clothing and basic electronics). (1)

These countries had workers employed in sweatshops begin to produce products, such as apparel, toys, shoes, wigs, and false teeth, primarily for export. (2) So how did this help these nations develop? The investment into these sweatshops leads to an increase in technology, capital, and human capital. (3) This allows for new jobs, which can lead to more and more people being employed, for higher wages, until it gets to the point that factory workers are making acceptable wages, under safer working conditions, by First World standards. (4) The greater wealth, technology, and human capital also means countries can also begin focusing on exporting more sought after goods such as automobiles and computers, which the Asian Tiger nations are exporting today. (2) Plus, with more wealth governments/companies can invest more into infrastructure, malls/shopping centers, etc., which also creates jobs. (5, 6)

To further prove my case, I will show what has happened to the developing nation of South Africa, which has tight labour laws, putting more of a burden on businesses to operate there. Although South Africans working in garment sweatshops are better off than those in Bangladesh (which is in a similar situation which many of the now economically strong Asian countries were in), the industry has lot ¾ of its jobs in the country, in the past decade. (7) This is because other countries, such as Bangladesh and neighbouring African nations, are more attractive to foreign businesses, so they’d rather operate there. For this reason South Africa still has a high unemployment rate, which will struggle to grow, which will hurt if not prevent their path towards becoming an advanced economy.

This proves that sweatshops are really important in economic growth, because the only way the wealth & technology which are needed for economic growth in many countries can be introduced is through cheap labour for export. Therefore, to conclude sweatshops are needed to support economic growth, which they have in and are continuing to do in many nations, with the notable recent examples being the 4 Asian Tigers.

C2-Better than the Alternatives:

Sweatshops provide workers with better alternatives than would otherwise be present. This is also supported any time sweatshops have been shut down, as many of the workers begin turning towards more dangerous and lower paying careers.

In countries with sweatshops, those working in them are found to be richer than the majority of the country. (8)

Even if only working a 40 hour work week (standard in the US and other first world countries) the sweatshop workers would be making more than the majority of the population in every country examined except Bangladesh and Indonesia. This should be obvious, because of opportunity cost. Most of these workers are going to choose what they feel is the best option for them and their families. They will obviously know that their opportunity cost of staying with their current work (assuming such work exists), is not worth the benefit of working for a sweatshop, or else they wouldn’t do it. This is why so many people are leaving rural areas to move into cities, even if they aren’t even certain to find a job. This doesn’t only apply to pay, as working conditions outside the sweatshops are often just as bad, if not worse than in sweatshops. A study (which focussed on child labour specifically), showed that 12% of children working in agriculture (a common rural job) reported injuries, while only 9% did so in sweatshops. (10) That doesn’t even account for all those who are unemployed. For example, many people spend their days scavenging the dump for here. Many Cambodians in these dumps in Phnom Penh said they wish they were in a sweatshops, because of the horrible conditions outside and the better pay. (11) In fact, a study showed the majority of people in third world countries view multinational corporations which run sweatshops favourably. (12)

There have also been countless alternatives where sweatshops are shut down and things get worse for those employed. For example, in the early 90s the US Congress tried passing a bill which would sanction corporations who used child labour. Although it didn’t pass, a German company laid off 50,000 of its child employees. (12) Oxfam later found that many of them turned to prostitution, crime, or even starved to death. (12) Similar protests led to sweatshops being shut down in Pakistan and Nepal, both of which saw thousands of children go towards prostitution. (12)

Overall, I proved that if sweatshops were shut down, the situation for these workers would be much worse. Therefore, sweatshops should not be shut down, as it will make life worse for the employees of these sweatshops. So, to conclude, due to the higher wages and better working conditions, supported by the appalling alternatives, sweatshops should not be closed.

C3-Morally Justified

Many people say that sweatshops are immoral. Although the conditions in sweatshops isn’t good, having them is morally justified and it would be immoral to close them.

Matt Zwolinski of the University of San Diego lays out the argument like this (13):

1. Most sweatshop workers choose to accept the conditions of their employment, even if their choice is made from among a severely constrained set of options.'
2. The fact that they choose the conditions of their employment from within a constrained set of options is strong evidence that they view it as their most-preferred option (within that set).
3. The fact that they view it as their most-preferred option is strong evidence that we will harm them by taking that option away.
4. It is also plausible that sweatshop workers' choice to accept the conditions of their employment is sufficiently autonomous that taking the option of sweatshop labor away from them would be a violation of their autonomy.
5. All else being equal, it is wrong to harm people or to violate their autonomy.
6. Therefore, all else being equal, it is wrong to take away the option of sweatshop labor from workers who would otherwise choose to engage in it.

I have proved the first & second premise and their conclusion above, so I will prove point #4, to prove the final conclusion. Going off the definition of autonomy provided above, to act autonomously, one is making their own decision independently. Since in the wide majority of cases, these sweatshops are choosing to work at these sweatshops (many of whom are happy too). Therefore, closing sweatshops is a violation of their autonomy, which most agree is morally wrong. Therefore, sweatshops should not be closed, because otherwise people would work in them.


Overall, I have proved that closing sweatshops would bring more harm than good. This is shown because sweatshops are a stepping stone towards economic growth and they are often the best option for workers. Plus, taking them away would be in direct violation of people’s autonomy. Therefore, sweatshops should not be closed.





KhalifV forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 2


Arguments extended.


KhalifV forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3


Vote Pro.


KhalifV forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 4
7 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 7 records.
Posted by RoyalFlush100 3 years ago
@18Karl lol yeah I have no idea what you're talking about.
Posted by 18Karl 3 years ago
by any chance were you part of CC Debate last year? if you don't know what the hell I'm talking about, then ayy lmao
Posted by RoyalFlush100 3 years ago
Alright, as of right now I will challenge KhalifV (highest ELO). I will do it tomorrow though because I'll need the extra day.
Posted by S2hannah 3 years ago
also interested
Posted by salam.morcos 3 years ago
A very gutsy challenge. I'm interested.
Posted by THEBOMB 3 years ago
I'm interested.
Posted by KhalifV 3 years ago
Let's commence
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by kasmic 3 years ago
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Total points awarded:40 
Reasons for voting decision: Pro provided a solid argument to support his resolution. I would go into detail but as con ff all rounds all points are dropped and thus Pro wins via ff.