Fast Fashion: The Real Cost

Most students wake up every morning to the sound of their alarm clock, hit snooze a few times before begrudgingly making their way to their computer, and logging in for yet another day of online school. However, some 170 million children from countries– such as India, Bangladesh, Benin, Egypt, China, Uzbekistan, Thailand, and China– are deprived of their right to attend school and instead forced into garment and textile labor to keep up with the high demands of consumers in the US, Europe, and all across the globe. 

As stated by UNICEF, the vicious cycle begins in Benin, where children produce cotton seeds to be harvested in Uzbekistan, where children are employed to transfer pollen from one plant to another subjected to long hours of work, exposure to harmful pesticides and paid much below the minimum wage. Next, the yarn is spun in India, and finally, the garment pieces are sent to Bangladesh, where they are assembled. 

But why are these innocent children forced into labor? According to the Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations or (SOMO), “Recruiters in southern India convince parents in impoverished rural areas to send their daughters to spinning mills with promises of a well-paid job, comfortable accommodation, three nutritious meals a day and opportunities for training and schooling, as well as a lump sum payment at the end of three years… in reality, they are working under appalling conditions that amount to modern-day slavery and the worst forms of child labor,” (SOMO 2014). Furthermore, fast fashion brands exploit child laborers by taking advantage of their small, nimble fingers, ability to complete low-skill tasks, and their obedience. The lack of supervision or unions that would potentially advocate for these children allows factory owners to slip these arduous conditions under the rug, hiding them from major corporations. 

While it is evident that child labor will not be solved overnight, there has been a significant change in recent years. According to Dressember, from 2000 to 2012, child labor decreased by 30 percent” (Kyles 2019). Yet, there is still so much work that needs to be done, and we must take action against this heinous industry. As consumers, we must educate ourselves on this issue to spread awareness throughout our communities, reach out to government officials demanding that they use their power to implement stricter laws against child labor, finally abstain from supporting the fast-fashion powerhouse brands by shopping secondhand or fairtrade.

Photo Credit: