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Working in ‘sweatshops’: Outsourcing to developing nations
This chapter outlines the major disciplinary discourses regarding offshoring as they underpin the contemporary debates on the appropriate regulatory and other responses to the proliferation of overseas sweatshops. It highlights the nature of the Global Competitiveness Agenda which has fostered offshoring albeit with some novel features associated with the unfolding of what is labelled the Fourth Industrial Revolution, that is, high-technology sweatshops. The chapter explores efforts both regulatory and otherwise to manage the wicked problem of sweatshops and considers the possible trajectory of this persistent problem. While traditionally outsourcing to offshore sweatshops largely involved low skilled labour, this is changing in the era of flexible specialisation with the associated uptake of information technology and robotics in manufacture of high-technology products. In the ready-made garment sector, the ‘sweatshop’ framing raises the question of whether the problem results from the continuing demands of international buyers for cost reductions or whether it is rooted in the local work culture and broader socio-economic context. © 2020 Taylor & Francis.