GAP Caught Using Child Labor To Produce "GAP Kids" Clothing

A freelance journalist has caught the GAP using child labor to produce hand embroidered clothing for its GAP Kids line. The children, who are as young as 10, are quoted as saying they were sold to the factory by their families and cannot leave until their debt is paid. A video of the factory’s squalid conditions shows GAP Kids labels on the clothing.

“There was an overflowed latrine. Bowls of rice covered in mosquitoes. Quite a putrid smell inside the sweatshop,” says Dan McDougall, the freelance reporter.

What are the odds that the GAP is right now, at this moment, “taking this seriously?”

From CBS 5:

“At Gap, we firmly believe that under no circumstances is it acceptable for children to produce or work on garments,” the spokesman was quoted as saying.

“These allegations are deeply upsetting and we take this situation very seriously. All of our suppliers and their sub-contractors are required to guarantee that they will not use child labour to produce garments.

“It is clear that one of our vendors violated this agreement, and a full investigation is under way.”

Child labor is a huge problem in India, where millions of children work in factories. The GAP says it requires its subcontractors to guarantee that they will not use child labor, and that it fired 23 factories last year for violations of its policies. Obviously, they needed to fire at least 24.

SF-Based Gap Severs Ties With Child Sweatshop [CBS 5] (Thanks, Andre, humphrmi, Douglas, and Maria!)
Busted: Gap Sweatshop Videos Cause Uproar [ABC 7]
(Photo:ABC7)

Comments

Edit Your Comment

  1. ancientsociety says:

    “The children, who are as young as 10, are quoted as saying they were sold to the factory by their families and cannot leave until their debt is paid”

    So this is actually child SLAVE labor. How wonderful. (yes, yes, technically it’s “indentured servitude” but let’s not split hairs here).

  2. ChrisC1234 says:

    What concerns me is that this is probably happening more often than we find out about. This will probably always happen when we outsource stuff in this country to 3rd world countries, all to save an extra $1.

  3. ismith says:

    I don’t see how this is Gap’s fault really; they’re doing what they can on their part. If you want to solve the problem, fix the places where its happening.

    For a big company to fire 23 factories for using child labor is huge- it would be so easy to turn a blind eye and get work done even cheaper…

  4. z1rdarryl says:

    THE GAP IS EVIL.

  5. ry81984 says:

    This is so hard to for companies to regulate. The blame is less than 50% for GAP.

    All they do is buy clothes from an Indian firm that makes GAP clothes which then outsources to the cheapest factories it can find.

    They said they fired 23 factories, so they are trying. Technically those 23 factories are not part of GAP and GAP does not even do direct business with them.

    What they need to do is fire that Indian firm that outsources to those factories and find a new one.

  6. inelegy says:

    Irony?

  7. protest says:

    @ismith:
    totally agree with you. the fact that this sort of thing is still happening is very, very sad.
    Gap will blame contractors and subcontractors, but this stuff will always happen as long as this work is available in countries that don’t crack down on this sort of abuse.

  8. JKinNYC says:

    @ismith: If you want to outsource to another country, and you don’t want to get smacked by bad PR of using child slave labor, the put some oversight on the plants. How expensive could it be to hire a plant monitor?

  9. mattatwork says:

    @ismith, @protest, @ry81984:
    Gap is responsible. They made a business decision to outsource production to a country with known child-labor issues. They knew something like this was a possibility, yet they did not have adequate safeguards in place to ensure this wouldn’t happen.

    Nobody forced Gap to produce their clothes in India. Child labor issues can be part of the deal when you outsource your production to a separate international company.

  10. ExtraCelestial says:

    the real issue here is with consumers. if we as a nation would stop demanding our clothing come 2 for $10 greedy companies looking at their bottom line wouldnt cut corners to make their profits. mcdonald’s dollar menu, taco bell’s $.50 tacos, what do you think is happening on the other side of that? also we need to check labels more carefully and take a stance against buying clothing made in countries where child labour is so prevalent until something’s really done about the problem.

  11. SuperSally says:

    @Celested

    Yeah, but Gap clothing hardly comes 2 for 10, unless it’s old Navy. Baby Gap sure as hell doesn’t. I agree that this type of issue, is largely because we as Americans are willingly sacrificing quantity for quality, but even when we try to buy quality we still end up exploiting.

  12. mandarin says:

    I blame every company that gets their products from there…

  13. FunPaul says:

    By Kids, for Kids.
    It doesn’t matter what their excuse or PR spin is. Ignorance is no excuse.
    They support child labor.
    No punishment is too severe for the people responsible for this.

  14. vladthepaler says:

    The use of child labour itself doesn’t particularly bother or outrage me. The age at which people are allowed to work varies by region around the world and I don’t attatch any moral value to it. (On the contrary, if a country is unable to educate its children, it should at least allow them to work.)

    However, the use of slave labour, child or otherwise, shouldn’t be supported: it’s even more backwards than the Gap’s fashion-sense!

  15. warf0x0r says:

    Well nobody shops at Gap Kids so what the hell are all these kids making?!?

  16. liquisoft says:

    I take very seriously their taking of this very seriously.

    Seriously.

  17. @SUPERSALLY

    You’re correct, it seems we are still far from an equilibrium of acceptable profit vs labor cost.

  18. ErinYay says:

    To quote Flight of the Conchords:

    “They’re turning kids into slaves just to make cheaper sneakers,
    But what’s the real cost, ’cause the sneakers don’t seem that much cheaper.
    Why are we still paying so much for sneakers when you got little kid slaves making them?
    What are your overheads?”

  19. Benstein says:

    WE HAVE A WINNER! The most evil company of they day award goes to: Gap!

    Some Comcast exec is smiling right now.

  20. ismith says:

    Liquisoft?! (I love Fonce Sans)

    @JKINNYC: Not very much, but they do periodically send over inspection team. The problem with having a plant monitor is that it would have to be someone who lives nearby already (for practicality reasons) but then you still have the fact that they will be less sensitive towards issues like this than us Americans (and Brits, and whoever else reads this) are. I’m sure some executive at GAP is very grateful towards this freelance photographer for catching the factory doing this candidly.

    @FUNPAUL: By your logic then, if you’re an American citizen you’re responsible for every death and tragedy in Iraq. Should I give you the chair for paying taxes that in the end support a war that has claimed tons of innocent lives?

    Oh, and also note: I *strongly dislike* Gap as a store, but I think it’s silly to say that Gap is to blame here, they’re doing a lot more to stop child labor than the Indian (or wherever this is) government is.

  21. kenposan says:

    Just build a plant in the US and hire all the high school kids away from McDonalds and Taco Bell.

  22. ismith says:

    @KENPOSAN: I strongly believe that more companies would base themselves in the US if the government here would stop trying to interfere with our economy.

  23. mgyqmb says:

    [www.theonion.com]

    The Onion is creepy sometimes.

  24. marsneedsrabbits says:

    Gap is responsible unless they can somehow (and with a straight face) say that they had no earthly idea that there was a child labor problem in India.
    Wait? They fired 23 factories last year? Well, I guess they can’t say that then, can they?

  25. orielbean says:

    The problem here is that the Gap doesn’t have its own factory over there. They have a third party doing the work for them. You will always have a quality or labor problem with that approach.

    My finance company employs a lot of SQL coders and designers in India. We did the same thing as Gap did initially, then realized we paid more for fixing quality vs the cost savings. Then we opened our own company in India to hire people for the work, and the issues dissolved. Why? Because we hold our own company to American quality standards.

    Gap should be fully liable for not having factory or labor monitors in factories where their product is being created. Until we make it a US legal requirement, we will continue to see this short-sighted approach for low-cost manufacturing goods. Disgusting.

  26. Hobo-NC says:

    And this is bad for consumers how?

  27. JKinNYC says:

    @ismith: All that matters is this. You do business in countries with weak labor laws (or none at all) and you run the risk of things like this happening. If you choose to save money moving your manufacturing overseas, you owe it to your shareholders to spend the oversight dollars to make sure the work conditions are up to standards that will not tarnish your brand. You owe it to your customers to sell them goods made fairly. Even if the Indian government should not allow this, 100% of the responsibility for the Gap selling child-slave-labor clothes falls on the Gap. They could have spent the money for enough oversight, but they didn’t.

  28. JKinNYC says:

    @Hobo-NC: Because some people care about not having kids make their clothing in slave-like conditions.

  29. helloitabot says:

    I think that the gap and corporations like it are pretty much 100% to blame. If they choose to outsource production to third world countries in order to save money, it should be well within their means, as huge companies with millions to spend on celebrities in their commercials, to hire a team that provides oversight at the factories. Companies are lazy: It’s the choice between creating all the infrastructure to have your own factory, or just writing a check every month to someone else who owns a factory. But hey we could blame capitalism, the media, or the uninformed American public too. Or India’s caste system.

  30. ExtraCelestial says:

    @ismith: considering that tax evasion is a federal offense that’s not at all a fair comparison. that always reminds me of the movie Stranger than Fiction where maggie gyllenhaal’s character decided that she was only going to pay 78% of her taxes to cover the cost of projects that she supported.

  31. lincolnparadox says:

    If somebody in Congress really wanted to send a message, a humanitarian bill with huge fines attached to it would stop American companies from using sweatshops/slave labor/child labor.

    I mean, what was The Gap thinking? “$0.25 for each hand-embroidered shirt sound fair to me.” If you look for the cheapest shirt, but you demand a certain quality, the only place for manufacturers to cut cost is through wages.

    Buy American. At least here we know that somebody will be prosecuted for crap like this.

  32. ExtraCelestial says:

    @vladthepaler: thats absurd. there isnt any sort of determinable age in these countries. its not like their governments got together and decided that a first grader is old enough to become a working adult. no, instead these families are so impoverished that they send any and all members of their families to bring in whatever small amount of money they can as soon as the child has fully developed motor skills. young children that should be worry free, outside playing on swingsets are instead forced to work long hours in reprehensible conditions for almost nothing. to say that u have no problem with that is mind boggling.

  33. ARP says:

    lincolnparadox: I agree. I keep advocating for a system of tariff/fines for stuff produced outside of the US. We rate countries based on labor standards, human rights, environmental standards, enforcement, etc. Bad score= higher tariffs. Good score= level playing field with US companies= no tariffs.

  34. FunPaul says:

    @ismith: Good point.
    I will need to learn how to deal with that guilt. However in the meantime I choose not to purchase any products from any company that uses children to make their products.

  35. cryrevolution says:

    @mattatwork: I completely agree. They are responsible for monitoring where their clothes they profit from are made. They cannot turn a blind eye to what is going on in India & expect to not get caught up in it.

  36. ceejeemcbeegee is not here says:

    @mattatwork: Word. My father was a garment manufacturer in LA for about 30 years and used to be a main contractor for GAP, Inc. When NAFTA passed, he saw half his business go to Mexico. He lost his GAP contract about a year later because he couldn’t afford to “match” the foreign prices: he would charge 55 cents a garment and other countries were charging a little as 5 cents per piece. How could he pay his employees at least min. wage plus medical benefits at 5 cents a shirt?

    Companies like the GAP use these places because they are cheaper and they maximize their profits. They may or may not know about the child labor practices, but they really don’t take many steps to ensure it’s not going on. All they care about is who can make it the cheapest. They kind of go into the situation thinking if they won’t get caught, and if they do, they will feign innocence.

  37. burgundyyears says:

    @ARP: Generally won’t work. WTO would deliver a swift kick to the rear if such a scheme was attempted unilaterally – just more American imperialism to them.

  38. anmlStyl says:

    As it’s top story on the local news around here, Gap HQ land, the recent update about the clothing made in the sweatshops were to be destroyed and not sold. Ever.

    Riiight.

    Perhaps a banned Gap Kids clothing watch akin to the Wal-Mart skulls t-shirt?

  39. dwarf74 says:

    Wow, ismith, where does the blame start then? If you outsource to companies without labor laws, this is what will happen. I think every company knows by now the risks inherent in Chinese manufacturing – from unsafe labor, to child labor, to toxic chemical substitutes. They knew the risks, they took the risks, and ultimately must bear the blame.

  40. humphrmi says:

    @CelesteD: You can’t expect consumers to demand to pay more for items that meet our standards. What we should expect is that once companies meet those standards, their prices will reflect the cost of doing business within those standards and the companies that don’t maintain those standards won’t be able to sell their child-labor good at any price.

    This is a typical business dilemma, and one that strong companies succeed at and weak ones fail at. Maintain your ethics, sell your products at a fair price based on those ethics, and either the unethical companies will go out of business, or if your ethics aren’t in tune with the consumers’, you will.

    It’s really simple economics.

  41. Imaginary_Friend says:

    @JKinNYC: Absolutely agree with you. Especially since this has been an ongoing issue with the Gap. Their CEO is clueless and stories like this is all the evidence we need to see that their upper management have no morals. Time for an old fashioned boycott. They can’t go out of business soon enough for me.

  42. Lin-Z [linguist on duty] says:

    @mgyqmb: creepy O_O

  43. Nemesis_Enforcer says:

    @vladthepaler: I agree with you. In a lot of these countries there is zero chance of a child being able to actually get an education so at least let them work to help feed themselves and family. If it’s a choice between working and being able to eat or going to school starving, I think working is the lesser evil.

    The real issue is that there are tooo many damn kids being born in 3rd world countries. When you have soo many mouths to feed it gets progressivly harder to take care of them and get them any kind of education without some of them needing to work.

    I lay the blame on the parents who sold these kids to the factory. Without them the situation wouldn’t be able to happen.

  44. dextrone says:

    @ry81984: Part of the blame is for them. They shouldn’t even consider doing business when they clearly know that they are getting a deal too good to be true. Besides, they could advertise that their clothes are made ethically.

    Not to mention, people aren’t educated and/or don’t care. The rich ones……boy they’re are problem…..

    This is something we should have control over, but sadly we don’t. I see one revolution occurring:
    A: We do something….(unlikely that it will have an effect;unlikely that anyone will have that much time to do it, there are more issues which people concentrate on, but yet are harder to solve and are is the main problem with this as one of its branches…..)
    B: They find out themselves (likely, but will take a very long time)

  45. mconfoy says:

    @ismith: you mean like those pesky child labor laws, 8 hour work day and safety laws?

  46. humphrmi says:

    @Nemesis_Enforcer: Have you been to India? I have. My ride to work took me through some pretty poor areas in Hyderabad. I saw kids coming out of what we would call huts – tarps over a piece of earth – wearing clean school clothes and then walking to school. The state subsidized education system in India is probably more inclusive than most “first world” countries. Every child in India can get a decent education, assuming their parents don’t sell them.

  47. soke2001 says:

    I think this issue is similar to people that love to eat meat, but hate the thought of animals getting slaughtered. We can’t have it both ways… we want cheap products, so we must be aware that there are consequences, so think about it next time you shop at walmart, target or the 99cent store accross the street.

  48. maxnl says:

    I am strangely reminded of this video I saw on the onion a while ago:
    [www.theonion.com]

  49. Baz says:

    finally, tangible proof of what I have been saying for years:

    People who wear khaki pants with turtleneck sweaters are assholes.

  50. georigin says:

    Sure, there are a few factories that employ child labor, but Not every factory does!
    For example the DC comics you get in the US, are made here in Bangalore, India! And they all employ adults.
    And the GAP. UCB, CK clothes you get there, are available here too (in an ‘exclusive GAP showroom’).
    And when they are available in metros like Bangalore, Mumbai, Delhi etc. quality issues are straightened out immediately. There will be public furore if we don’t get quality goods!

    Child labor will take a long time to get abolished here.Mainly due to corruption.

  51. xxoo says:

    I am an American designer and manufacture in NYC. Do you all have the same “buy American” attitude when looking at my price tags? It seems to be politically correct to criticize those damn designers with their high prices — until a story like this comes along. Look, my prices aren’t artificially inflated — I WANT my prices lower as they equal more sales. But because I pay my employes well and use only legit factories in NYC, my prices have to be high just to (barely) break even. The next time you make a purchase, please consider than the more expensive garment (made in USA) by a small design company may be the right choice.

  52. girly says:

    @mattatwork: Yes!

    Instead of “It is clear that one of our vendors violated this agreement, and a full investigation is under way.”

    It should be ‘It is clear that we failed at monitoring our vendors to the detriment of innocent children, and a change in our practices is under way.’

    I wonder, as part of their full investigation, what will happen to the kids?

  53. STrRedWolf says:

    Something that was missing from above: GAP has canceled the order from the Indian sweat shop and yank the clothing.

  54. mikesfree says:

    For kids, by kids. This was an onion video (www.theonion.com) and it is so perfect now.

  55. kimb00 says:

    Not to play devil’s advocate, but as much as the practice of child/slave labour is abhorrent, sometimes it’s better than the alternative (say brothels). These children are so poor that they are not likely to be going to school or eating well any time soon, this might actually be a better alternative.

    The problem now is that, instead of working with its contractor to provide child care/education for the children and employ the parents (or whatever), GAP will simply cancel their contract with this unknown sweatshop, who will then either fire everyone and go out of business, or get another western contract and continue doing exactly the same thing. It’s not like GAP is actually going to pay their contractors MORE to make their clothing, they’ll still look for the lowest bidder to replace this contractor.

  56. ismith says:

    I don’t want to blame anyone for this. Eventually human nature degrades us all. You can blame Gap, India, the factory owners, but in the end you’re not helping the situation. Gap, and similar companies, are cutting off business to people who participate in these practices, thus putting them out of business and forcing them to start over legitimately. I thank them for that, and any faults that they have I’m sure you and I could both match in our own past actions…

  57. child labour and society says:

    Gap or Wal-mart or any other and even an exporter who supplies would not know the involvement of child labor in stitching garments, as is hidden practice and media takes advantage for its publicity. Media does not care the reasons or does not wish to highlight reasons and issues of child labor. Shame on such Media or organizations those do not highlight solutions to child labor eradication rather expose for own advantage. [www.sadashivan.com] Number of child prostitution and street children are increasing each day, each month and each year. Arresting child labor in factories in several countries have opened numerous fields for young children to opt alternate ways of sourcing money. New fields like pornography, sex tourism, plastic items, plastic bags and garbage collection, begging in streets, pick pocketing. Check video how children perform acrobat in streets and roadside. [www.youtube.com]

  58. child labour and society says:

    The best practice for GAP, Wal*Mart, Ikea or other textile importers would be to establish own production units with dyeing, stitching machines, finishing and packing in rural village. Over 70% of tailors and garment workers migrate to urban cities to work for sub-contractors of garment or home furnishing exporters. Majority of them are either illiterate or semi-literate so don’t know what child labor ( [www.sadashivan.com] ) issue is? For them the issue is survival in expensive urban cities raising money for future life in their own village. Most important factor is that job is unstable so can not settle down at one place; move from one unit to another to get better wage as they are on wage per piece produced and wage decided by demand and supply. Under such circumstances, giving education in schools to children is not easy. For them education to their children is learning survival skill that children learn through child labor ( [www.sadashivan.com] ). For them child not only learns practical skill rather also earns for home. They find their children future more secured than the unemployed graduate in developing world. So they seek help of their children to contribute towards home. Nearly 80% of garment and home furnishing exporters get production done through sub-contractors (fabricators). For exporters having own unit in urban cities is presently not viable due to lack of sufficient finance or increased capacity to meet order quantity, labor issues and expensive affair. Most exporters of urban cities outsource their production from small unorganized stitching and embroidery, button-hole (kaj) units located in either unauthorized or poor residential areas of the cities. For illiterate or semi-literate sub-contractors such places are convenient and cheaper to operate. Such areas are beneficial to avoid government attention, escape labor laws and other benefits too to cut cost of production. A packed garment or home furnishing piece in the rack of a store of an importing country goes from many hands and stages from raw cotton, polyester or other fiber to finished and packing stage. If Garment export units are located in rural villages from where the workers migrate, would be of more help to them towards earning and avoiding children from child labor. Rather would help generating jobs in more areas of manufacturing accessories like; button, laces, threads, machine accessories, hand embroidery and etc;. Child labor ( [www.sadashivan.com] ) elimination depends on improving living standard of the parents. Avoiding contractors or subcontractors is minimizing extra cost would fetch more benefits to direct buyers and the garment workers. Finally, a unit with all manufacturing facility in rural village from weaving to packed shipment would fetch minimum 25% cost reduction. [www.sadashivan.com]

  59. rene46 says:

    gap can say whatever they want. the bototm line is “they knew what was happening” and it would have continued if they had not of gotten caught! my husband works for a major tire company and within that company are the international groups that travel to other factories to make certain the performance of those workers is ethiical.

  60. efbegranny says:

    I guess I’ll have to add Gap to the list of retailers or name brands I no longer patronize. I do not want to wear, eat, or use items not made or purchased fairly. March 1st 2008 will be the fifth anniversary of a WalMart free lifestyle. To xxoo congratulations: advertise under the fair trade tag and you will get consumers like me who have a hard time reconciling a conscience with the business practices of today

  61. z1rdarryl says:

    Wow
    They gave $200, 000.
    Thats how much they spend to air 1 ANNOYING COMMERCIAL during prime time.

    Seriously… THE GAP IS EVIL.

  62. teenagewitch says:

    Here’s some food for thought, and I’m sure I will take a major tongue lashing for this, but I have to offer another perspecitive. Many of these places are third world or damn near close to it. If these children were not making clothes, they may be sold as prostitutes or worse God forbid. These places need the whole family to work and pitch in, as soon as they can. We need to take some responsibility ourselves if we started helping these countries become self sufficient, so that children could be children again. I am in no way justifying what is being done, but I do think it could be by far worse for them.

  63. teenagewitch says:

    N guess what? Disney Land and Old Navy do it too!…