Fashion industry blamed for horrors of Italian sweatshops

Oct 09, 2012

The appalling conditions of up to 25,000 migrant clothes workers and their families in central northern Italy can be blamed on the fashion industry, according to a University of Manchester researcher.

Dr Jerónimo Montero says the state authorities are more concerned about Italy's than the conditions of the workers - mostly trafficked from China and employed by hundreds of subcontractors.

Locked up for months, working up to 17 hours a day, sleeping where they work and earning as little as £240 a month, the workers produce clothing for well known brands available on the British High Street, and for high end fashion houses, says Dr Montero.

"The conditions are horrendous. But if that isn't enough, one labour inspector told me that with the little money they earned,  the workers had to pay-off the costs of being trafficked into Italy," he said.

"It takes up to four years to pay off the debt, and only then are they free to leave these awful places."

Though Dr Montero's research was carried out five years ago, he believes that there is no evidence of change.

His research includes interviews with , union leaders and other officials in Prato and Tuscany, revealing another side to the renowned 'made in Italy' label.

He said: "Over recent years, Italy has been repeatedly condemned by the EU and the International Labor Organization for the way it treats . But little has changed.

"I urge the state to comply with international protocols that protect victims of trafficking, rather than deport them.

"My research reveals that the exploitation of like those in Prato is how the maintains its profitability.

"But it's not just Italy: the fashion industry across the world has fostered a return to the widespread use of subcontracting because of unstable demand and the general instability of the .

"It's a result of their need for flexibility in production and to cut costs to meet increasing international competition."

According to the researcher based at the University's School of Environment and Development, increasing importance of international financial markets and EU liberalisation have strongly affected manufacturing industries across Southern Europe.

He calls for new laws in Italy which force companies at the top of the production chain to be made legally responsible for the working conditions in their subcontractors' workshops.

He added: "Today, the high fashion houses and retailing chains have the power to control the whole production chain without having to face the risks typical of most companies.

"The 'ethical code' subscribed to by the fashion industry is not enough and has no legal weight.

"This must change."

Explore further: Society bloomed with gentler personalities and more feminine faces

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Most migrant sex workers are not forced to sell sex

Oct 31, 2011

Most migrants working in the London sex industry do not feel they are forced to sell sex. In fact, they decide to work in the sex industry to achieve a good standard of living for themselves and their families back home. ...

Young and invisible: African domestic workers in Yemen

Dec 07, 2007

Filmmaker Arda Nederveen and anthropologist Marina de Regt have made a short documentary about Ethiopian and Somalian women who work as domestic workers in Yemen. Many families in economically developed countries make use ...

Recommended for you

Soccer's key role in helping migrants to adjust

19 hours ago

New research from the University of Adelaide has for the first time detailed the important role the sport of soccer has played in helping migrants to adjust to their new lives in Australia.

Congressional rift over environment influences public

Jul 31, 2014

American citizens are increasingly divided over the issue of environmental protection and seem to be taking their cue primarily from Congress, finds new research led by a Michigan State University scholar.

User comments : 0