In This Review

Out of Poverty: Sweatshops in the Global Economy (Cambridge Studies in Economics, Choice, and Society)
Out of Poverty: Sweatshops in the Global Economy (Cambridge Studies in Economics, Choice, and Society)
By Benjamin Powell
193 pp, Cambridge University Press, 2014
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This book might have been titled In Praise of Sweatshops. It is a serious attack on well-meaning European and U.S. organizations that lament the working conditions in the factories of many developing countries, sometimes calling for boycotts against the multinational firms that purchase from such factories or that even own them. But Powell argues persuasively that sweatshops, where the conditions are admittedly appalling by Western standards, represent an improvement -- often a significant improvement -- over the alternatives available to their workers. To boycott them or impose other significant additional costs on them makes life worse for many poor people by depriving them of relatively good jobs. This is especially true for women in the developing world, for whom rural life is often far worse than industrial labor in cities. The book contains a good deal of data and economic analysis, but it also addresses moral and philosophical issues and compares the labor dilemmas of the contemporary developing world with those that arose during comparable periods of British and U.S. history, when sweatshops likewise represented a step forward. One lesson of the book is hard to ignore: if Americans want more workers around the world to enjoy American working conditions, they should let more immigrants into the United States.