In 2007, Oxfam Australia helped the Solidarity Cooperative in Thailand by running a competition which lead to the design of the 'This is not a sweatshop' bag, currently on sale at Oxfam Shop. Photo: Junya Yimprasert/Oxfam Photo: Junya Yimprasert/Oxfam

Are your clothes made in sweatshops?

If you’re wearing anything from Nike, adidasPuma, Fila or even some of our well-loved Australian brands like Bonds or Just Jeans, then it’s highly likely your clothes were made in places that most people would describe as sweatshops.

What is a sweatshop?

A sweatshop is a manufacturing facility where workers endure poor working conditions, long hours, low wages and other violations of labour rights. Unfortunately, places known as sweatshops are particularly common in developing countries where labour laws are often not enforced. Other issues of concern are workers being exposed to toxic substances or using dangerous machinery without adequate protection.

Are sportswear and garment factories really sweatshops?

If confronted many of the major supply factories they would probably deny that they’re sweatshops, as all are supposed to adhere to the codes of conduct of their clients. The problem is that in developing countries this is difficult to monitor so the codes are generally not enforced.

And the sad fact is that many workers in the global sportswear industry are living in poverty even though they have paid jobs.

The workers producing for companies like Nike, adidasPuma, Asics, FILA, Mizuno, New Balance and Umbro, who are mostly young women (aged 17-24), often endure low wages and long hours in dangerous and hostile conditions.

Many of these workers do not like describing their workplaces as “sweatshops”, because they think it makes them sound like victims. But these workers know their wages and conditions are unacceptably low and many of them organise protests to demand better wages and conditions, even though doing so can put their jobs at risk.

Take action

  • Write to the CEO of Puma and tell him you think that workers who make Puma gear should be paid decent wages and have a safe work environment.
  • Tell Nike to pick up their game – and make sure that workers making Nike products receive fair wages and decent conditions at work.

Buy sweat-shop free clothes

If clothing carries the Ethical Clothing Australia (ECA) label it means the garment was manufactured in Australia and the manufacturer has committed to ensuring that all of the people involved in its production received, as a minimum, the legally stated wage rates and conditions — known in Australia as award wages and conditions.

To find out which Australian made garments you can purchase to support fair working conditions, see the ECA list of accredited brands.  Brands include high-end fashion, corporate wear, casual street wear, sportswear and uniforms.

Learn more

Clean Water Saves Lifes

Dairy farming in Bangladesh

Across the world, women are more likely to live in poverty. But in Bangladesh, dairy farming is creating income for women like Aklima. Together, we can help more women take control of their lives.

Oxfam Shop