For more than twenty years, labor-intensive industrialization in developing countries has generated controversy about "sweatshop" conditions in the factories of multinational companies and their regional subcontractors. In recent years, U.S. university students have vigorously opposed such factories as sites of abuse and exploitation. Others reply that such places offer their mainly young and female workers much-needed income and independence. Much of this controversy has focused on Southeast Asia as a prime location of facilities for the manufacturing of apparel, footwear, toys, and other labor-intensive exports. Why do sweatshops exist in these countries? Why are they tolerated? Why are they assailed? Are the objections justified? What should be done?
University of Michigan-Ann Arbor Business School Professor Linda Lim has helped pioneer empirical research on young women factory workers in Southeast Asia. She has published extensively on this and other labor-related subjects. She has also served as a frequent consultant to the International Labor Organization, most recently on the globalization debate. She was a member of the University of Michigan's Advisory Committee on Labor Standards and Human Rights in 1999-2000.